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BY E. G. SQUIEtt. 

Lu> Ciuioi D' ArnUB orTHi Uninn ^int Ta-rni Rmtucs or CinuL Awuw. 






Entered, according to Act of Congren, ia the year 1851, by 

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Soathem Distriet of New York. 

J 1) 



CHAPTER XVI.— Second Antiquarian Expedition— The Shores of Lake 
Managua once more — ^Matcaras — ^Don Henrique's Comadre — I am en- 
gaged as Godfather — An Amazon — Santa Maria de Buena Vista — A 
"Character" in Petticoats — "La Negri ta y La Blanquita" — Purchase 
of Buena Vista — A Yankee Idea in a Nicaraguan Head — ^Hints for 
Speculators — Muchacho vs. Burro — ^Equestrian Intoxication — Another 
Apostrophe I — Pescadors — " Hay no mas," and " Esta aqui," as Mea- 
sures of Distance — ^Managua — ^The "Malpais," Nindiri and Masaya — 
Something Cool — A Pompous Alcalde — ^How to Arrest Conspirators — 
Flowers of th^ Palm — ^Descent to the Lake — Memorials of Catastrophes 
— ^Las Aguadoras — New Mode of Sounding Depths — Ill-bred Monkeys 
— Traditional Practices — Oviedo's Account of the Lake in 1529 — Sar- 
dines — ^The Plaza on Market Night — ^A Yankee Clock — Something 
Cooler — ^A State Bedroom for a Minister — Ancient Church — Filling out 
a Vocabulary — " Quebrada de Inscripciones " — Sculptured Rocks ; Their 
Character — Ancient Excavations in the Rock — "El Bano"- — ^Painted 
Rocks of Santa Catrina — Night Ride to Granada — The Laguna de Sali- 
nas by Moonlight — Granada in Peace — A Query Touching Human 
Happiness — ^New Quarters and Old Friends — An American Sailor — 
His Adventures — " Win or Die" — A Happy Sequel, . . 3 

CHAPTER XVIL— Visit to Pensacola— Discovery of Monuments- 
Search for others — Success — Departure for " El Zapatero" — ^La Carlota 
— ^Los Corales — ^Isla de La Santa Rosa — A Night Voyage — Arrival at 
Zapatero — Search for Monuments — False Alarm — Discovery of Statues 
— ^Indians from Ometepec — A Strong Force — ^Further Investigations — 


Mad Dance^Extinct Crater and Volcanic Lake — Stone of Sacrifice — 
£1 Canon — Description of Monuments, and their probable Origin — ^life 
on the Island, . . . . . . .43 

CHAPTER XVIIL— Return to Granada— A Ball in honor of "El Min- 
i:«tro" — The Funambulos — Departure for Rivas or Nicaragua — Hills of 
Scoriae — ^The Insane Girl and the Brown Samaritan — A Way-side Idol 
— Mountain Lakes and Strange Birds — A Sudden Storm — Take Refuge 
among the "Vaqueros" — Inhospitable Reception — ^Night Ride; Dark- 
ness and Storm — Friendly Indians — Indian Pueblo of Nandyme — The 
Hacienda of Jesus Maria — An Astonished Mayor Domo — How to get a 
Supper — Jicorales — Ochomogo— Rio Gil Gonzales — The ** Obraje" — 
Rivas and its Dependencies — Senor Hurtado^His Cacao Plantation — 
The City — ^Effect of Earthquakes and of Shot — Attack of Somoza — 
Another American His attempt to cultivate Cotton on the Island of 
Ometepeo — Murder of his Wife — Failure of his enterprize — A word 
about Cotton Policy — The Antiquities of Ometepec — Aboriginal Burial 
Places — ^Funeral Vases — Relics of Metal — Golden Idols — ^A Copper Mask 
— Antique Pottery — A Frog in Verd Antique — Sickness of my Com- 
panions — The Pueblo of San Jorge — Shore of the Lake — Feats of Horse- 
manship — Lance Practice — Visit Potosi — Another Remarkable Relic oi 
Aboriginal Superstition — The Valley of Brita — An Indigo Estate — Cut 
tivation of Indigo^Village of Brita — A Decaying Family and a De- 
cayed Estate — ^An Ancient Vase — Observations on the Proposed Canal 
— Return alone to Granada — Despatches — A forced march to 
Leon, . . . . . . . .69 

CHAPTER XIX.— Volcanoes of Central America ; their Numbei^— Vol- 
cano of JoruUo— Isalco— The Volcanic Cliain of the Marabios — ^Infer- 
nales — ** La Baila de Los Demonios" — Volcanic Outburst on the Plain 
of Leon — Visit to the New Volcano, and Narrow Escape — ^Baptizing a 
Volcano— Eruption of Coseguina — Celebration of its Anniversary — 
Synchronous Earthquakes — Late Earthquakes in Central America — 
Volcano of Telica — El Volcan Viejo — Subterranean Lava Beds— Ac- 
tivity of the Volcanoes of the Marabios in the ICth Century — The 
Phenomena of Eardiquakes — Earthquake of Oct 27, 1849 — Volcanic 
Features of the Country — Extinct Craters — Volcanic Lakes— The Vol- 
cano of Nindiri or Masaya — Descent into it by the Fray Bias de Cas- 
tillo—Extraordinary description, ..... 101 

CHAPTER XX.— Christmas— Naciinientos— -The Cathedral on Christmas 
Evt — Midnight Ceremonies — An Alarm — ^Attempt at Revolution — 


Fight in the Plaza — Triumph of Order — The Dead — ^Melancholy Scenes 
— A scheme of Federation, ..... 127 

CHAPTER XXI.— The " Paseo al Mar"— Preparations for the Annual 
Visit to the Sea — The Migration — Impromptu Dwellings — Indian Pottci*s 
—The Salines — The Encampment — First Impressions — Contrabanda — 
Old Friends — The Gamp by Moonlight — Practical Jokes — A Brief 
Alarm — ^Dance on tlie Shore — ^Un Jucgo — ^Lodgings, Cheap and Ro- 
mantic — An Ocean Lullaby — Morning — Sea Bathing — ^Routing of the 
Paseo — Divertisements — ^Return to Leon, . . . 137 

CHAPTER XXII.— Proposed Visit to San Salvador and Honduras- 
Departure from Leon — Chinandega — Ladrones — The Goitre — Gigantic 
Forest Trees — ^Port of Tempisque — The Estero Real and its Scenery — 
A novel Custom house and its Commandante — ^Night on the Estero— 
Bay of Fonseca — ^Volcano of Coseguina — ^The Island of Tigre — Port of 
Amapala — ^View from the Island — ^Entrance to the Bay — Sacate Grande 
— Exciting News from Honduras — ^English Fortifications — ^Extent) 
Resources, and Importance of the Bay — ^Departure for the Seat of 
War, ••••.... xOi. 

CHAPTER XXm. — ^Departure for San Lorenzo — ^Morning Scenes — 
Novel Cavalcade— A High Plain — ^Life amongst Revolutions — ^Nacaome 
— Military Reception — General Cabanas — An Alarm — ^Negotiations — 
British Interference — ^A Truce — ^Prospecte of Adjustment — ^An Evening 
Review — The Soldiery — ^A Night Ride — Return to San Lorenzo, 169 

CHAPTER XXIV.— La Union-Oysters— American Books— Chiquirin 
— ^French frigate " La Serieuse " — Admiral Hornby of the Asia 84 — 
French and English war vessels — ^Ascent of the Volcano of Conchagua 
— ^A Mountain Village — Peculiarities of the Indians — ^Las Tortilleras — 
Volcano of San Miguel — ^Fir Forests — An Ancient Volcano Vent — ^The 
Crater of Conchagua — Peak of Scoriae — ^View from the Volcano— En- 
veloped in Clouds — Perilous Descent — Yololtoca — Pueblo of Conchagua 
again — An Obsequio*— Indian Welcome — Semana Santa — Devils — Sur- 
render of Guardiola — San Salvador — Its Condition and Relations, 187 

CHAPTER XXV.— Departure for the United States— An American 
Hotel in Granada — ^Los Cocos — Voyage tlu*ough the Lake — ^Descent of 
the River — San Juan — Chagres — ^Home — Outline of Nicaraguan Con- 
stitution — Conclusion of Narrative, .... 207 



CHAPTER I. — Consideration of the Geographical and Topogn^hical 
features of Nicaragua, as connected with the Projected Interoceanic 
Canal, ........ 217 

CHAPTER II. — Historical Outline of Negotiations in respect to the ^ 
Proposed Canal, ....... itf^A 9 I 

CHAPTER rn. — The Interoceanic Canal under its Commercial and 
Political Aspects, .*..... 281 


CHAPTER L — Aboriginal Nations of Nicaragua; their G^eographical 
Distribution, Language, and Monuments, .... 305 

CHAPTER n. — Civil, Political, and Social Organization; Manners, 
Customs, and Religion, ...... 340 


CHAPTER I.— The Spanish- American Republic*— The Causes of their 
Failure, ........ dS^ 

CHAPTER II.— The Revolution in Central America— Struggle BetweS^ 
the Republicans and Monarchists — Triumph of the Republic. (1821- 
lo2o}) ........ Off 

CHAPTER IIL— The Republic in Operation— Devotion of its Sup- 
porters—Combination of its Enemies— Civil War. (1823-1828), 388 

CHAPTER IV.— Francisco Morazan, the Bulwark of the Republic- 
Overthrow of the Serviles — ^Liberal Reforms — ^Prostration of the 
Church— Elements of Weakness. (1828-1830), . . .400 

CHAPTER v.— British Interference— New Elements of Discord— Seces- 
sion — The Liberals divided amongst themselves — Gloomy Prospects 
for the Republic. (1830-1836), 412 

CHAPTER VI.— The Reign of Terror— War of Caste*— Rafael Carrera 
— Dissolution of the Republic— Overthrow and Flight of Morazan — 
Anarchy. (1836-1841), 425 

CHAPTER VII. — Carrera— Return of Morazan — His Death— Further 
Distraction of the State*— Attempts at Confederation. (1841-1851), 443 





The dry season had now fairly commenced; for two 
weeks no rain had fallen on the plains of Leon, except an 
occasional " aguac^ro " which sprinkled out its brief exist- 
ence under the lee of the volcanoes. The circumstances 


were now favorable for carrying out my long cherished pur- 
pose of again visiting Granada, and from thence prosecuting 
my investigations of the antiquities reported to exist in its 
vicinity, and in the islands of Lake Nicaragua. Locking up 
the main wing of my house, and handing over my keys to 
Padre Cartine for safe keeping, with no other companions 
than M. and my servant, I set out on the expedition. 

It was just daybreak when we rode through the suburb 
of Guadaloupe, but already the Indians were yoking their 
oxen and preparing for their day's work. Here we overtook 
Don Felipe Jauregui, Commissioner of Honduras, who had 
started for Costa Rica, and who felicitated himself greatly 
on having our company during part of his journey. But 
Don Felipe had a servant with the mules and a led horse for 
emergencies, and valued time at its current rate in Central 
America, where it never rules at a premium. He had a 
long journey before him, and meant to take it easily. So, 
before we had gone a league, after trying in vain to seduce 
his horse into a pace, I took advantage of a little bend in 

the road to give him the slip, nor did I see anything more 
of him imtil the next day, in the evening, when he overtook 
us at the town of Masaya. 

I never wearied of the ride to Pueblo Nuevo, and thence 
along the shores of Managua to Matearas ; nor would the 
reader weary of its repeated description, could my pen truly 
portray its charms. The afternoon was still, and the beach, 
upon which the tiny waves toyed with a low, musical 
murmur, was cool in the broad shadows of the cliflfe which 
bordered it upon the west, and crowned with verdure, shut 
oflF the rays of the evening sun. My old friends, the long- 
legged cranes, were there, distant and grave as usual, and 
clearly in bad humor at these repeated intrusions. And 
when we dismounted and took a bath in the lake, thep 
audibly expressed their dissatisfaction, and marched oflF a 
few rods, where they held an indignation meeting, in company 


with a rabble of water-hens and disreputable " zopolotes." 
I had great contempt for them ever after that. 

We reached Matearas at sunset, and " put up" at the house 
of Don Henrique's pet. She inquired about our friend, and 
felt ** very desolate," she said, because he had not sent her 
some pills he had promised — ^for be it known, every foreigner 
in Central America is more or less a " medico." The little 
naked fellow for whom Don Henrique had stood sponsor, 
was tumbUng about the floor, engaged in a pretty even con- 
test with two pigs and three chickens, about a piece of tor- 
tilla. The pigs appeared most afflicted, and squealed in a 
distressful way because of their ill success. Our little hostess 
did not take the trouble to interfere, but gave " aid and com- 
fort" to her boy, by keeping off a matronly porker, evidently 
deeply interested, which stood looking in at the door-way. 
I could not help laughing at the group, but my merriment 
puzzled the poor woman exceedingly. She looked at me 
inquiringly, blushed, and drew forward a large reboso, which 
was thrown loosely over her shoulders, so as to conceal her 
figure. I saw her mistake at once, and hastened to correct it 
in the most direct manner, for in these coimtries it is the 
only way of preserving a good understanding. A tear glis- 
tened in her eye, while a smile lit up her face, as she replied 
in a touching tone, "A thoiLsand thanks, Sefior; we are very 
poor people, and cannot aflford to be laughed at." She told 
me with the greatest frankness how soon another god-father 
would be wanted, and as she had had a Frenchman for the 
first, she should " so like" to have an American for the second. 
I assured her that I should be happy to serve, if I could 
make it convenient to be there at the proper time. A few 
minutes afterwards, I overheard her telling the gossiping 
female neighbors who had " dropped in," that the thing wa^ 
all settled. " El Ministro del Norte" was to be sponsor for 
the prospective immortal, "seguro! seguro!" sure! sure I 
How proudly the little woman moved about the rest of the 


evening ! She superintended all the details of supper, and 
xohen 1 went to bed on the table, would have substituted her 
pillow, the only one in the house, for my saddle, had I per- 
mitted her. That table! There is but one thing harder 
under the sun, and that is Don Pedro Blanco^s bed of hide ! 

After this intimation, I need not add that I was not exactly 
" lapped in Elysium" during the night. It was not so much 
the feult of the table, as of some arrieros, stopping at the 
hut over the way, who had got together the belles of the 
village, and with the aid of aguardiente, a guitar, and two 
tallow candles, were making a night of it. I sat up several 
times to look at them through the little square window over 
the table. Various groups of dancers were whirling around 
a man playing the guitar, a gay mestizo with a red sash 
around his waist and his hat set jauntily on one side, who 
performed with all the vigor of "the bones," in the Opiras 
Ettiiopiennes, and from the shouts of laughter which followed 
some of the hits, evidently improvising the song with which 
he accompanied the music. Some of these hits, I infer, were 
personal, for suddenly a strapping yellow girl, in a dashing 
flounce, flung herself out of her partner^s arms, and seizing 
the performer's hat, flung it under her feet. The next 
instant she had him by the hair ; — there was a tustle, a min- 
gled sound of laughter, supplication, and abuse, in the midst 
of which the table was upset, and the lights extinguished. I 
flattered myself this was the final " grand tableau." Delusive 
hope ! Half an hour of violent discussion ensued, in which 
the voice of the Amazon was highest, and then the entente 
cordiale seemed restored. Looking out of the window, I saw 
the man of the guitar in his former place, and everything 
going on as before. I presume, however, that the improvisor 
*was now more respectful in his allusions. 

We left before sunrise the next morning, deferring break- 
fast until our arrival at Managua, twenty miles distant. I 
rode ahead, and allowed my horse to take his own course. 


Upon reaching the volcanic ridge which I have mentioned 
as projecting into the lake, where the mole road diverges from 
the round-about caminorealj he entered the wrong path, and 
we went on for half an hour before discovering the error. 
I then determined to push ahead, whatsoever the conse- 
quences. We soon came to a clearing, and a little beyond, 
to a number of huts, standing upon the very brow of the 
mountain, and looking out upon the lake, and beyond its 
shores, to the hills of Chontales. I involimtarily spurred my 
horse forward. It was the broadest, most luxuriant view 
upon which my eye had ever rested. That from Laurel Hill, 
descending the Alleghanies, is alone comparable to it, but 
lacks the grand and essential elements of lakes, volcanoes, and 
tropical verdure. The morning breeze swept fresh and ex- 
hilarating past us, and our very horses lifted their heads, and 
with expanded nostrils and ears thrown forward, seemed to 
drink in the cool air, and to enjoy the surprise and the sc^ne 
not less than ourselves. 

We were several times saluted with "buenas maflanas 
caballeros 1" by a short, merry-faced old lady, the mistress of 
the huts, before we had the gallantry to turn from the scene 
to the sefiora. Two or three naked boys, with bows and 
arrows and cerbatanas or blowing-tubes, stood beside her, 
and a couple of grown girls peeped slyly at us from behind 
the broken door of the principal hut. The old lady was a 
sympathetic body, and her face was really brilliant with ani- 
mation, as she exclaimed "buena vista^ cabelleros!" prolong- 
ing the "vees-ta," as she swept her hand in the direction of 
the distant horizon. This "hatto," she said, was called 
^* Santa Maria de Buena Vista," and she was the mistress. 
These, she added, are my nifios, boys, and these " malditas," 
pointing to the girls who dodged out of sight, are my " hijas 
yrandes,^^ my big girls. " Vengal" come here, she ejaculated ; 
but the girls wouldn't come, whereupon the old lady went 
into the house and dragged them out. One was fair, with 


UiiUi hair and blue eyes, while the other, like her mother, 
wud tt brunette, her dark ejes, half shadowed by her long 
rnrUixft tuiir, fairly dancing with suppressed mischief I had 
lofif/ Mhra ceased to be surprised at wide differences of color 
arirj ihtiinriM in the same family; but the contrast here was so 
iitrikiri^ that I could not help exclaiming interrogatively 
*^ atnlMinf^ boUif "Si!" she answered, with emphasis; "esta 
rMs^rita," this darkey, is my husband's, "y esta blanquita ea 
una Francescita !'' and this white one is French I The infer- 
eui*j5 from this naive ccmfession was so obvious a reflection on 
tlie old lady's honor, that I thought it but decent not to 
understand it, and modestly suggested, " Ah si, su compadre 
fixe Frances," ah yes, her god-fisither was French ! " No, su 
padre — padre I" no, her father, father, interrupted the matron, 
with energy ; " I was young once," she added, after a pause, 
and with a toss of the head, which made me repent my ill- 
timed suggestion. Ah ! the perfidious Frenchman who had 
abused the hospitalities of "Santa Maria de Buena Vista I" 
The wretch had evidently a taste for the picturesque. 

The old lady inquired how I liked the place ; I was, of 
course, delighted. "Very well," said she, buy it;" and she 
went on to enumerate its advantages, making the most of the 
view. I suggested that there was no water ; but that she 
said was of slight importance, it was only a mile to the lake 
— she had got water there for fourteen years, and there was 
plenty of it, as we could see. Besides, I could have either 
one of her girls to bring it for me ; both if I liked ; and all 
for a hundred dollars ! But the concluding argument con- 
founded me ; she communicated it in a whisper. The Norte 
Americanos were building a canal, and in a few months, 
Buena Vista would be worth four times the money I I took 
off my hat incontinently, and only regretted that the old 
lady had no lithographic press, wherewith to convert Buena 
Vista into town lots ! I promised to consider the proposition 
— particularly so far as it related to the " negrita," and the 


" blanqtiita," both of whom, I wished to have it distinctly 
understood, were to be included, because it was more than 
one ought to do, to bring all the water from the lake. The 
old lady admitted the force of the argument, and gravely 
assented. The final arrangement was deferred until my 
return. One of the boys pointed out the path, down the face 
of the mountain to the lake ; we had only to follow the shore, 
he said, to reach Managua. I asked how far it was, — ** hay 
no mas I" " there is no more, it is only a step," he replied, and 
we left him in high spirits, thinking we had really discovered 
a short cut, instead of having gone two leagues out of our 
way. The path to the edge of the lake was steep, but well- 
worn, and we descended without much difficulty. The beach 
was broad and smooth, and on a little knoll, covered with 
grass, and arched with trees, was the place where the women 
of Buena Vista did their washing. The huts, as we looked 
up, seemed perched on the edge of a precipice, and with the 
palms that surrounded them, stood out in sharp relief against 
the sky. Cattle from the pasturage grounds were loitering 
in the edge of the water ; there was a donkey, grave but 
stubborn, which a half-grown boy was trying to drive some- 
where, but which not only wouldn't go, but kicked viciously 
when the muchacho approached. The boy seemed almost 
ready to cry with vexation, and begged I would shoot the 
obstinate brute, which he denounced, not only as "sin 
▼erguenza," but as a great many other things, which would 
hardly bear translating. We left him stoning the " burro," 
at point blank distance, just out of the range of his heels ; 
and if neither one has given in, they may be there still. 

The shore was hard and smooth, and our horses moved 
along, the waves dashing to their fetlocks, with an elastic 
and nervous action, in which the merest clod must have 
sympathized. Occasionally arching their necks, and lifting 
up their heads, their whinny was like the blast of a trumpet I 
Ah, my noble gray — with thy clear eye, expanded nostrils, 

VOL. n. 2 


taper ears, and the veins swelling full on thy arcliing neck I — 
son of Arabian sires! hast thou forgotten that morning's ride 
on the shores of Managua ? Wine may quicken the blood 
with an unnatural, evanescent flow ; the magic hakshiah 
stupify the frame, and for the moment make the tense 
ner\'es vibrate to the melodies of the spirit world, — ^but give 
me a free rein, and the willing back of my Arab gray, and 
the full, expanding, elevating intoxication of a tropical 
morning ! 

On, on, we seemed to float along the edge of the lake. 
By-and-by the hills came down like barriers to the water. 
Here we scrambled for awhile amongst rough rocks, cutting 
vines and branches right and left with our swords, and emerged 
on the shore of a little bay. Two men, up to their arm-pits 
in the water, were throwing a cast-net near the rocks, while 
a third trailed after him what appeared to be a long branch 
of the palm tree, but which was a cord, whereon the fishes 
were strung. He towed it ashore, at our request, and showed 
us some hundreds of beautiful fish, most of them of a species 
resembling our rock-bass, and about the size of a small shad. 
I asked the price — ^ten for a medio^ or sixpence ! We 
declined purchasing, whereupon he offered ten for a quartillo, 
equal to three cents. I then told him we did not wish to 
buy, but that there was a real to drink the health of los 

We had now come more than a league, and I bogan to 
think as it had been " hay no Trios'^ to Managua at Buena 
Vista, we must be near the place. We were now told " esta 
aqui^^^ **it is here, you are in it;" which we afterwards found 
to mean that it was only six miles further. After much 
exjHjriencc, I came to understand that "Aay no mas,^' *' there 
is no more," or it is no further, is a figurative way of saying 
from nine to twelve miles ; and "e^to a^wi," " it is here," from 
six to nine. ** Una legua," a league, I may add, for the 
benefit of uninitiated travellers, may be calculated at plea- 


sure, at from a mile and a half, to five miles, — ** you pays 
your money, and you takes your choice I" 

Another league along the lake shore, occasionally turning 
a rocky headland, and we came to a large plantain walk, 
from which a broad path diverging to the right, assured us 
that we were approaching the city. The path was as smooth 
and as clear as a race course, and our horses, who had 
been in high spirits all the morning, struck at once into a 
fast gallop. I bent down on my steed's neck, to avoid the 
branches of the trees, and gave him a loose rein. It was a 
very undignified race, no doubt, on the part of the riders, 
but both gray and bay enjoyed it, and so did we, by sheer 
force of sympathy. We met numbers of people going to 
their huertas, who leaped out of the path as we went scurry- 
ing along. Some cried ^^hoo-pahP^ and others ejaculated 
something, in which I could only distinguish " borracho^^ — 
" drunk P^ But that was a mistake. 

We dashed into the plaza of Managua, with steaming 
steeds, and rode to the posada. It was not nine o'clock, yet 
we had ridden twenty -six miles. We ordered breakfast, and 
it was quite ready before Ben came trotting up on his mule. 
He was in bad humor, and I couldn't blame him, for it was 
shabby to leave him alone in the chapparal. 

At eleven, when we started for Masaya, the sky was cloud- 
ed but it did not rain, and we rode at a rapid pace over the 
intervening thirty -six miles. Again we paused on the "mal 
pais" of the volcano, and looked down upon its broad, deso- 
late fields — doubly black and desolate under a lowering sky. 
Again we lingered in the noiseless streets of sweet, embow- 
ered Nindiri, bom of the lake and mountain, — and at four 
o'clock entered the suburbs of Masava. 

I had a letter to a gentleman, who, for reasons which will 
duly appear, shall be nameless, and inquired for his resi- 
dence. In reaching it, we had to go through the plaza ; it 
afiforded a striking contrast to the appearance it had worn 


when we passed it before. The closed shops were now open, 
and flaunting with gayly-colored goods — groups of people 
with laden mules were scattered in every direction, and women 
with dulces stepped across it with the precision of grena- 
diers I A procession consisting of a boy ringing a little 
bell, and followed by some musicians and a priest, was just 
emerging from the great church, on its way to administer 
the last rites of religion to the dying. The hum of voices 
was stilled on the instant ; every head was uncovered and 
every knee bent, as the little procession moved by on its 
mission of consolation and mercy ; another moment, and the 
current of life and action flowed on as if nothing had oc- 

The house where we were to stop was a very good one, 
and we rode at once into the court-yard. A lady, fat and 
fair, and not without pretensions to beauty, was seated in 
the corridor. She invited us to dismount, which we did, and 
I handed her my letter of introduction. She looked at the 
direction, and said it was for her husband, who had gone out; 
she would give it to him on his return. I suggested that 
she had better read it ; but, singular woman, " she never 
read her husband's letters I" She nevertheless showed a dis- 
tant relationship to the sex, by depositing it in her bosom — 
the bosom of her dress. Perhaps she had the ability, in 
common with certain maiden ladies of New-England, of 
taking in the contents by a mystical process of magnetic ab- 
sorption. It wasn't pleasant to sit waiting in the corridor ; 
we had not come to make a call, but to stop for the night, 
and aU the next day, and after waiting a reasonable time for 
an invitation, I told Ben to unsaddle the horses, and place 
our baggage in the corridor. The mistress looked a little 
puzzled, but said nothing. In fact the whole affair was get- 
ting to be awkward ; so I suggested to M., that pending the 
return of our proposed host, we should visit the lake. 

The first man we met in the street proved to be one of the 


identical alcaldes who were in such a fever to ring the bellSy 
when we had passed through, sIk months before. He at 
once volunteered to accompany us to the lake, and took the 
lead with a magisterial air, as if heralding royalty, bringing 
his golden-headed cane down at every step with an empha- 
sis which struck terror into all the muchachos within a 
square of him. Occasionally he would stop to point out to 
us, or to explain, some object of interest That house, he 
said, the door and windows of which were riddled with bul- 
lets, had been the rendezvous of the "facciosos" during the 
late disturbances. The prefect having got wind of their 
meetings, silently surrounded it with soldiers, and the first in- 
timation the conspirators had of danger, came with a hundred 
bullets through their doors and windows, and was followed 
by a charge of the bayonet — a mode of proceeding I thought 
sufficiently decided for any latitude I That house, &lling in- 
to ruins, and surrounded by rank weeds, that was the house 
of a man who had murdered a padre ; the bishop had cursed 
the spot, and it was fenced in with posts, so that stray porkers 
might not fall under ban by entering its crumbling portal I 
Those extraordinary clumps of flowers, looking like mam- 
moth golden epaulettes, were flowers of the coyol palm — and 
those brown shells, each half shaped like a canoe, and almost 
as large, those were the cases in which the flower had matur- 
ed. And thas our guide went on, marching us the while 
down a broad avenue, thronged with water carriers, in the 
direction of the lake. I observed that the jars here were not 
carried on the head, but in a kind of net-work sack, suspend- 
ed on the back by a broad and gayly woven strap passing 
around the foreheads of the bearers, who came up panting 
and covered with perspiration. 

Half or three-quarters of a mile fix)m the plaza, we came 
to the edge of the immense sunken area, at the bottom of 
which is the lake. Like the "Laguna de Salinas," near 
Granada, and which I have already described, it is sur- 


rounded by precipitous cliflfe, except upon the side of the 
volcano, opposite the city, where the lava has flowed over, 
and made a gradual but rough and impassable slope to the 
water. The first stage of the descent is by a broad flight of 
steps, sunk in the solid rock, terminating in an area, fenced by 
a kind of balustrade, or parapet, of the same material. I 
looked over this, and below was a sheer precipice, from which 
I recoiled with a shudder. Here stands a little cross firmly 
fixed in the rock. The path now turns to the right, winding 
along the face of the declivity, here cut in the cliflF, there 
built up with masonry, and beyond secured by timbers, fast- 
ened to the trees, many of which are of gigantic size, 
covered with vines, and twining their gnarled roots in every 
direction among the rocks. These rocks themselves are 
burned and blistered with heat, with vitrified surfeces of 
red or black, resembling the hardest enamel. Were it not 
for the verdure, which hides the awful steeps and yawning 
depths, the path would prove a fearful road for people of 
weak heads and treacheroTis nerves, whose confidence in 
themselves would not be improved by the crosses which, 
fastened among the stones, or against the trees, point out the 
places of fatal catastrophes. Our guide advised us to 
take off our boots before commencing the descent, and the 
women whom we met slowly toiling up, in many places 
holding on by their hands, panted ^^quiiasus betas/" — "take 
off your boots I" But we were more used to boots than they, 
and kept them on — not without subjecting ourselves to a 
suspicion of fool-hardiness. Down, catching glimpses of the 
lake, apparently directly beneath us, and as distant as when 
we started, — down, down, — it was full fifteen or twenty 
minutes before we reached the bottom. Here were numer- 
ous places among the fallen rocks and the volcanic debris of 
the cliff, where the aguadoras filled their jars. Many of 
these were bathing in the water, carrying their jars out 
several rods fjx)m shore, filling them there and then towing 


them in. They did «pot appear at all disconcerted by onr 
pr^ence, so we sat down on the rocks and talked with the 
brown Naiads. I asked one of them if the lake was deep ? 
She replied that it was "insondable," bottomless; and to 
give me practical evidence of its great depth, paddled 
ashore, and taking a large stone in each hand, went out not 
more than thirty feet, and suflfered herself to sink. She 
was gone so long that I began to grow nervous, lest some 
accident had befallen her in those unknown depths, but 
directly she popped up to the surface, almost in the very 
place where she had disappeared. She gasped a moment for 
breath, and then^ turning to me, exclaimed, "you see !" 

The water is warm, but limpid, and, it is said, pure. When 
cooled, it is sweet and palatable. Considering that the lake 
is clearly of volcanic origin, with no outlet, and in close 
proximity to the volcano of the same name, this is a little 
remarkable. Most lakes of this character are more or less 
impregnated with saline materials. 

The view of the lake, and the volcano rising on the oppo- 
site shore, from the place where we were seated, was singu- 
larly novel and beautiful. Above us towered a gigantic 
cebia, festooned with vines, amongst which a company of 
monkeys were scrambling, chattering, and grimacing. Oc- 
casionally one would slip down the long, rope-like tendrils 
of the vines, scold vigorously for a moment, and then, as if 
suddenly alarmed, scramble up again amongst the branches. 
The girls said they were specially indignant at us because 
we were "blancos," and we had afterwards the most con- 
clusive, if not the most savory, evidence of their dislike, 
which it would be indelicate to explain. Suffice it to say, 
we registered a vow to return the next day with our guns, 
and teach the ill-bred mimics better manners. 

The cliffs which wall in the lake resemble the Palisades 
on the Hudson river, but are much higher, and destitute of 
the corresponding masses of debris at the base. The early 


ijf/aauLekij cliix/idckrs epeak of them as a '^ thousand fathoms" 
hJ4^h ; lawr travellers have changed the fathoms to yards, 
but ^veu tixiiX is prohablv an exaggeration. We had no 
Uie4uu> <A' dfrrtermining the question, and wouldn't have gone 
d<^wjj ii^aui, afWr once regaining the upper earth, to have 
ia^A\^ it M. tb/xiaamd times. The descent was mere bagcUelle, 
but tUe -ac<>«^nl one of those things which answer for a life- 
tuut;, iuu^i J«aive no desire for repetition. We reached the 
^y>j>er <;A>i&fc sdter a most wearisome scramble, only fit for 
WM/Jjkeyi* Uj uu<l(;rUike, and sat down on the last flight of 
Hloxfce *>U?}>*j wWiUy exhausted, covered with perspiration, 
Uix4 vur templ/^ throbbing from the exertion, as if they would 
bwfcl. TlMi Of/ti/j/IaraSj accustomed to it from infismcy, 
i^^Ui/ti^i t/j mtSur almrjst as much as ourselves, and as they 
|>«u6iaieyl tliie itfiMHj uiwiii its sign in the usual manner, in ac- 
ksM/wMi(nuiUi of their safe return. 

AJJ thib water for domestic purposes is thus painfully 
i/fo^y/lii lip thjtn the lake. During the " invierno " the rain 
U <:/AU'/:U'A in tanks, or ponds, in the courts of the principal 
Ixoubir^r, t>r the use of the horses and cattle ; but when this 
*Mj>ply hi^'AHium exhausted, as it does towards the close of 
ihki dry n^iuant^ the water for their use has also to be obtained 
Ueic. An attempt had been made to cut a path for mules 
d^/wn ilui i'hfui of the cliiF, but it had failed. About two 
lea^/iju^sj ihmi Masaya, however, the people had met with 
IjttHU^f ^luuis^iif and there is now a place where animals, 
with atMiUi diflleulty, can reach the lake. There are a num- 
Imr of UfWHHf l>esides Masaya, which obtain their water from 
iim miji^ti tumnui. These towns existed, and the same prac- 
iim prevailed, iHjforc the Conquest, when the country was 
Uiufuld more |Kipalous than now. Water-carrying seems to 
have always l>een one of the principal institutions of this 
ieetion of country, and as there are no streams, and never 
will Iwi, it is likely to remain about the only enduring one, 
or until s<jinc enterprising Yankee shall introduce a grand 


forcing pump, worked, perhaps, by volcanic power — ^for, 
having made the lightning a " common carrier," I do not see 
why volcanoes shouldn't be made to earn their living ! 

Oviedo has described this lake as it was in 1529, and it will 
be seen that it has little changed since then. His estimate of 
the height of the cliflfe surrounding it, about one thousand 
feet, is probably not far from the truth. 

" Another very remarkable lake is found in this province, although it 
cannot be compared, in extent, with Cocibolca (Nicaragua). The water 
is much better. It is called the lake of Lendiri (Nindiri or Masaya), and the 
principal cazique, who lives on its banks, bears the same name. This 
lake is about three leagues from Granada, but they are so long that we 
may safely call them four. I arrived there on St James' day, July 25, 
1529, and stopped with Diego Machuca, the same gentleman of whom I 
have spoken heretofore. I was well received and hospitably entertained, 
and I went with him to visit this lake, which is a very extraordinary one. 
To reach it, we had to take a road, the descent of which is so rapid that 
it should be called rather a stairway than a road. Adjoining it we saw a 
round, high mountain, on the summit of which is a great cavity, from 
which issues a flame as brilliant but stronger and more continuous than 
that of Etna, or Mount Gibel, in Sicily. It is called the Volcano of 
Masaya. Towards the south an arid and open slope extends to the shores 
of the lake; but on the other sides, the lake is shut in by walls, which are 
very steep and difficult of descent I beheld a path, as I was led along, 
the steepest and most dangerous that can be imagined ; for it is necessary 
to descend from rock to rock, which appear to be of massive iron, and in 
some places absolutely perpendicular, where ladders of six or seven steps 
have to be placed, which is not the least dangerous part of the journey. 
The entire descent is covered with trees, and is more than one hundred 
and thirty fathoms before reaching the lake, which is very beautiful, 
and may be a league and a half both in length and breadth. Machuca, 
and his cazique, who is the most powerful one in the country, told me 
that there were, around the lake, more than twenty descents worse than 
this by which we had passed, and that the inhabitants of the villages 
around, numbering more that one hundred thousand Indians, came here 
for water. I must confess that, in making the descent, I repented more 
than once of my enterprise, but persisted, chiefly from shame of avowing 
my fears, and partly from the encouragement of my companions, and 

VOL. II. 3 


from beholding Indians loaded with an aroba and a half of water, (nearly 
40 lbs.,) who ascended as tranquilly as though travelling on a plain. On 
reaching the bottom, I plunged my hand into the water, and found it so 
warm that nothing but intense thirst could have induced me to drink 
it But when it is carried away, it soon cools, and becomes the best 
water in the world to drink. It seems to me that this lake must be on a 


level with the fire that bums in the crater of Masaya, the name of 
which, in the Chorotegan language, signifies the burning mountain. 
But one species of fish, as small as a needle, Ls found here ; they are 
cooked in omelets. The Indians esteem the water very good and health- 
ful, and when they go down, are sure to bathe in it. I asked the cazique 
why they did no^ bring fish from other places and put in it? He replied 
that they had done so several times, but the water rejected them, and 
they died, diffusing a fetid odor, and corrupting the water. Among the 
descents, there was one formed of a single ladder of ropes from top to 
bottom. As there is no water for several leagues around, and the country 
is fertile, they put up with the inconvenience, and obtain their supply 
from this lake." 

The little fishes found here are the same with those called 
sardines at Managua, and which I have described in another 

It was dusk when we returned to the plaza, which was 
now filled with people, presenting the most animated appear- 
ance that it is possible to conceive. It was market evening, 
and every one who had aught to buy or to sell, was on the 
ground, exhibiting his wares, or in search of what he wanted. 
I have said that Masaya is distinguished for its manufac- 
tures, and we now had the opportunity of learning their 
variety and extent. Upon one side of the plaza stood mules 
loaded with grass or sacate, wood carefully split and bound 
up in bundles like faggots, maize, and the more bulky 
articles of consumption. Near by were carts overflowing 
with oranges, melons, aguacates, jocotes, onions, yucas, 
papayas, and the thousand blushing, luscious fruits and 
vegetables of the country, going at prices which we regarded 
as absolutely ruinous, while las vendedoras chanted : 


" Tengo narangas, papayas, jocotes, 
Melones de agua, de oro, zapotes, 
Quieren a comprar ?" 

" I have oranges, papayas, jocotes, 
Melons of water, of gold,' and zapotes. 

Will you buy ?" 

Here were women seated on little stools beside snow-white 
sheets, or in the centre of a cordon of baskets, heaped with 
cacao or coffee, starch, sugar, and the more valuable articles 
of common use ; here a group with piles of hats of various 
patterns, hammocks, cotton yarn, thread of pita, native 
blankets, petates, and the other various articles which 
Yankees call " dry goods ;" here another group, with water 
jars, plates, and candlesticks of native pottery ; there a 
slUero or saddler exposed the products of his art, the zapatero 
cried his shoes, the herrero his machetes, bits for horses, and 
other articles of iron; girls proclaimed their dulces, boys 
shouted parrots and monkeys, and in the midst of all a tall 
fellow stalked about bearing a wooden-clock from Connec- 
ticut, in his arms, gaudily painted, with the picture of the 
sun on the dial, which seemed to tip us a familiar wink as I 
inquired the price. Unfortunate inquiry ! " Quarenta pesos ; 
barato, barato, muy barato !" " Forty dollars ; cheap, cheap, 
very cheap I" And the wretch followed us everywhere with 
that abominable clock. ^*Sir," said I at last, "I make 
clocks, and will bring one here and sell it for five dollars, if 
you do not stop your noise !" Whereupon he marched off, 
still crying, " Un relox esplendidisimo, quiera a comprar!" 
Wherever we passed, we were stunned with the mercaders, 
who fairly hustled us, in their anxiety to thrust their various 
wares full in our faces. The hackmen at a steamboat landing 
could not be worse. Directly the alcalde, who had gone off" 
to collect his official associates, rejoined us; and then, amidst 

* Musk melons, or melones almizcleHos. 


the bustle of the market, we had ten minutes of laborious 
bowing and speechifying, much to the edification of the 
peoi)le, no doubt, who piled themselves up around us, full 
twenty deep. I had been enjoying myself mightily, but all 
was done for now, and leaving the busy scene of which I 
would gladly have seen more, I moved off to our quarters. 

Our proposed host had returned, and received us almost 
civilly. He was a dark, saturnine looking man, and evidently 
not given to hospitality. We nevertheless got a very good 
supper, none the less acceptable because of our visit to the 
lake on the top of a horseback ride of sixty miles that day. 
We had not finished before Senor Jauregui trotted up to the 
door. He had heard where we were, and had come directly 
to our quarters. I thought he was better received than we 
had been, but the difierence was not more than between cool 
and cold. I made a kind of apology for my desertion of the 
Seiior, which was very politely received ; but I hope it was 
more satisfactory to him than it was to me. 

During the evening I hired some mozos to go to the Indian 
Pueblos of Jinotepec and Nindiri, to bring me next morning 
the oldest Indians who could be found, retaining any know- 
ledge of the language originally spoken here, with the view of 
procuring a brief vocabulary. The rest of the evening was 
spent in inquiring about antiquities, and in listening to the 
family history of the Sefiora of the mansion, who, besides 
keeping a tienda in one corner of the house, had the honor 
of being sister of a late minister of the country in Europe, 
once Secretary of the Treasury, but who just now did not 
stand in the highest favor with Government or people. How 
much the fact of this relationship had to do with my recep- 
tion, it is hardly worth the while to conjecture. The family 
history was not the most entertaining to weary travellers, and 
having a keen remembrance of the table at Matearas, and 
catching glimpses of inviting curtained beds in the inner 
rooms, I made no efforts to disguise my enyiuL Finally, I 


plainly suggested that it was bed time. Our host took a 
miserable candle, but instead of leading to the inviting cur- 
tained beds aforesaid, marched us out into the corridor, to a 
kind of outbuilding at one extremity, with a rickety door, a 
single little window, unpaved floor, and mildewed walls. 
Here were two dirty hide beds, upon the headboards of which 
some chickens were roosting. There was not an article of 
fttmiture in the room ; not a rag of clothing on the beds. He 
stuck the candle against the wall, and was about departing, 
when I called him by name. He turned round, and I looked 
him full in the face for a moment, and then told him " go !" 
He really had the decency to blush ! Ben made up a kind 
of bed with the saddles and blankets, and spite of all discom- 
forts I slept soundly and well. I was up early to enjoy the 
delicious air of the mornfcig, and strolled out into the silent 
streets, and for half a mile up one of the avenues, to a small 
picturesque church in a little square, surrounded by a high 
cactus hedge, and filled with magnificent, ancient palms. 
The church was a quaint structure, and on a slab sunk in 
the wall of the fagade was an inscription, of which I could 
only make out the words, " en el ano 1684." It had been 
long abandoned, and a flock of silent zopilotes were perched 
on the roof, with wings half expanded to catch the breeze of 
the momiDg. The area around it was now used as a ceme- 
tery, and kept scrupulously neat and free from weeds. 

Upon my return to the house, I found the Commissioner and 
the breakfast waiting. We had the table all to ourselves in 
the corridor, and in the intervals of his masticatory exercises, 
Don Felipe favored me with his private opinion of our host, 
which coincided wonderfully with my own. He also pro- 
duced a letter, in a very confidential way, which he begged 
I would forward to Leon, as it contained a full exposure of 
the treatment to which we had been subjected ; but which, it 
afl;erwards turned out, related to certain political movements 
of doubtful propriety. And as he mounted his horse to 


depart, he whispered in my ear, with the air of a man vindi- 
cating the national reputation for hospitality, that he had 
paid the bill for the party. I, of course, could only bow my 
acknowledgments, and with a *'buenaviaje," the Commis- 
sioner rode off. The next time I saw him, three or four 
months later, a file of soldiers was marching him through the 
streets of Leon, a proscribed man, under arrest for treason ! 

Up to the departure of the Commissioner, I had been in 
doubt as to my position in the house, whether I was a pay- 
ing guest or otherwise, and had in consequence put up with 
many things little agreeable to my feelings. I now felt 
relieved, and made a number of very imperative if not neces- 
sary orders, by way of compensating myself for lost time, 
and getting the worth of my money. Ben caught the spirit, 
and instead of attending to our anirtals himself, went through 
double the fatigue in making the servants of the house do 
the drudgery, treating them at the same time to a variety of 
forcible epithets, besides indulging in some reflections on their 
maternal ancestry. 

Before eight o'clock the Indians whom I had sent for 
made their appearance, and squatted down in the corridor. 
Amongst them was a female, a little withered creature, with 
only a blanket around her middle, who seemed to know more 
than all the rest, and who was as prompt as an ambitious 
school-boy in replying to my questions. This annoyed her 
husband greatly, who, not content with berating her for 
what he called her impertinence, would have administered 
practical reproof, had he not been kept in check by our 
presence. ** Ah, sefior," he said, " this woman has been so 
all her life! Heaven help me!" and he lifted his eyes and 
crossed himself With great difficulty I filled out mv blank 
vocabulary, and dismissed my swarthy visitors, giving an 
extra real or two to the woman, who gratefully volunteered 
to visit Leon, if I required further information. 

I had heard of a ravine not far from Masava, in which 



there were inscribed rocks, " piedrads labradas," and my of- 
ficial guide of the preceding evening undertook to lead us 
to the place. We went down the same broad avenue to- 
wards the lake, but before reaching it, turned to the left, and 
passing through luxuriant fields of yucas and tobacco, along 
the edge of the precipice, came at last to a hollow, where 
stood the hydraulic wonder of Masaya, called, jpar excellence, 
"La Maquina," the machine. It was a very simple and 
very rude apparatus for elevating water from the lake. The 
water jars were placed in sacks attached to an endless rope, 
connected with a pulley below, and revolving on a wheel or 
drum, turned by horse power above. The clifl* here was 
lower than at any other point, and for half the distance to 
the water absolutely precipitous. Below, the fallen rocks 
and the earth washed firom the ravine had formed an in- , 
clined plane, up which the jars were brought on men's 
shoulders. The proprietor of the Maquina, who seemed ex- 
ceedingly proud ofhis achievement, told me that the machine 
raised the jars as fast as eight active men could bring them to 
the foot of the precipice. The water was emptied into a large 
trough hollowed fi:om a single tree, and here the proprietors of 
the town watered their animals, at a certain rate per week. 
The whole affair was an experiment, and Ije was not yet cer- 
tain that it would succeed, because of the opposition of the 
aguadoras, who regarded it as a flagrant innovation on their 
immemorial privileges. He concluded by inquiring if we had 
similar contrivances in *' El Norte" and seemed very com- 
placent when I assured him that there was nothing of the 
kind in the whole extent of our country. The Maquina 
stood at the mouth of the ravine of which we were in search. 
"We entered, and proceeded up its narrow bed, shut in by 
walls of rock, and completely arched over with trees, for 
about a quarter of a mile. Here the face of the rock upon 
the left side was comparatively smooth, and literally covered 
with figures rudely cut in outline A few were still dis- 


tinct, but most were so much obliterated that they could not 
be made out with any degree of satisfaction. Many were 
covered with the fallen debris, and the earth which the rains 
had brought down ; and still others were carved so high up 
on the precipitous rocks, that their character could not be 
ascertained. They covered the face of the cliflfe for more 
than a hundred yards, and consisted chiefly of rude repre- 
sentations of animals and men, with some ornamented and 
perhaps arbitrary figures, the significance of which is now 
unknown. Plate I. of the " Sculptured Hocks of Masaya^^^ 
exhibits the principal outlines upon the first section to which 
we came, and Plate II. those upon the second. Upon the 
latter there seems to have been an attempt at delineating the 
sun in two places, and perhaps also to record some event, for 
it is a plausible supposition that the straight marks on the 
upper section of Plate II. were intended for numerals. The 
principal right hand figure of this section seems to have been 
designed to represent a shield, arrows, or spears, and the 
xiuatlatli, or aboriginal instrument for throwing spears, which 
are frequently grouped in similar manner in the Mexican 
paintings. The principal figure in the inferior section is evi- 
dently intended to represent a monkey. In respect to the 
other figures, the reader is at liberty to form his own con- 
jectures. Kocks inscribed in very much the same manner, 
are scattered all over the continent, from the shores of New- 
England to Patagonia. Most, if not all of them, are the 
work of savage tribes, and seem generally designed to com- 
memorate events of greater or less importance. They are 
however far too rude to be of much archaeological value ; 
and have little interest except as illustrating the first steps 
in a system of pictorial representation which it is supposed 
subsequently became refined into a hieroglyph ical, and 
finally into an alphabetical system. 

There is some reason for believing that this ravine was 
regarded as a sacred place; a hypothesis which derives a 



ocrlain degree of support from the seclusion and gloom of tlm 
I spot, where the raya of the suu seldom reach, or reach bat 
I for a moment when the wind parts the verdure which 

I shitdows over it Uke a, tent. Upon Plate IT., Nu. 2, wirl be 
I irbseryed a flight of rude steps cut in the rook, indicated by the 
I letter a. These lead to a shelf in the cUiF, about three paces 
|: broad, attlie back of which the rock again abruptly rises to the 
I'beiglitof more than a hundred feet. Upon this shelf, and 
I unmediately above the figure whicli I have supposed to rep- 
1 resent an ape, is what is called " el Bafio," the Balh. It is a 
[ t>%tiuigular excavation in the rock, nearly eight feet long, four 
VOL. II. i 


broad, and eighteen inches deep, cut with great smoothness, 
the sides sloping regularly to the bottom. A groove about 
an inch and a half deep, leading to the edge of the cliff) is 
cut entirely around this basin, with the probable design of 
preventing the water from running into it. The name given 
to this excavation throws no light upon its true character, 
for it would be wholly inadequate for bathing purposes, even 
if there were a supply of water near, which there is not. 
There seems to be but one explanation of its origin, which 
has so much as the merit of plausibility, viz., that it was, in 
some way, connected with the superstitions of the aborigines, 
and devoted to sacred objects. 

To the left, and a little iibove the figure which I have sup- 
posed to represent the sun, (c,) there is a pentagonal hole or 
shaft, penetrating horizontally into the rock. It is about six- 
teen or eighteen inches in diameter, and of an indefinite 
depth. I thrust a pole into it for upwards of twenty feet. 
The sides are perfectly regular and smooth* Our guide 
pointed out to me one similar, some distance off, in another 
part of the ravine. It was, however, not more than five or six 
inches in diameter, and occurred so high up on the cliflF that 
I could not ascertain its depth. The rock is basaltic or tra- 
chy tic, and very hard. I am not aware that such openings are 


found in this kind of rock ; but nevertheless suppose that 
those under notice are natural. Our guide insisted that they 
were artificial, and said the Indians have a tradition that 
they lead to subterranean chambers. I cannot describe them 
better than by saying that they appeared to be the matrices 
from which gigantic crystals had been withdrawn. 

Besides the figures represented in the plates, there were 


many isolated ones, at yarious places on the rocks, among 
which those engraved above were several times repeated. 
Our guide also told us that there were other rocks, having 
figures both painted and sculptured upon them, at several 
points around the lake, but we could not ascertain the pre- 
cise locality of any except those before us. Near a place 
called Santa Gatrina, I was informed, there is a large rock 
covered with figures in red paint, like those at Nihapa, rep- 
resenting men and wom«n dancing, and playing upon instru- 
ments of music. I had, however, no opportunity of ascer- 
taining how far the account coincided with the facts, but 
have no doubt that it was somewhat exaggerated. The man 
at the Maquind also told me about what he called " stone 
vases," which were to be found below the cliflfe, at the edge 
of the lake, a league distant from where we now were. Upon 
questioning him as to their character, I ascertained that they 
were kettle-shaped excavations in rocks lying on the shore. 
He said they were now .used to receive leather for tanning, 
and were probably originally devoted to a similar purpose. 

It was late when we returned to Masaya, but as the moon 
was in its first quarter, I resolved to ride to Granada that 
evening. So we despatched a cup of chocolate (for which I 
paid the lady, with the distinguished connections, a dollar 
and a half) and mounted our horses just as the sun was 
sinking behind the volcano of Masaya. I hired a mozo in 
the plaza to ride ahead and put us in the right path, — a. 
precaution, the necessity of which will appear when I say 
that foot and mule paths diverge in a thousand directions 
from every principal town, all so nearly alike that it is im- 
possible for the stranger to tell one from another. We met 
hundreds of Indians, of both sexes, young and old, coming 
in from the fields, each bearing a small load of wood, com, 
plantains, or other articles of consumption. They were all 
in excellent humor, and saluted us gayly. By-and-by the 
night fell, and except an occasional straggler, we had the 


path to ourselves. Now we wound along in deep dells and 
ravines, where it was so dark that we could not see each 
other, and anon emerged into the narrow open savannahs, of 
which I have elsewhere spoken, smiling under the soft light 
of the crescent moon. The paths were so numerous, that, 
after puzzling myself into a state of profoundest confusion, 
in attempting to keep the broadest and most frequented, I 
left the selection entirely to my horse. Where we should 
bring up was a matter of uncertainty ; our only land-mark 
was the volcano of Momobacho, and while that was kept U> 
the right, I knew we could not be greatly out of our way. 
Our horses were fresh, the evening was cool, and forest and 
savannah, light and shade, seemed to float I>ast us like the 
silent scenery of a dream. That ride was a poetical episode 
of existence, as perfect in its kind as the morning passage 
along the shores of Lake Managua, with which it oontrastecl 
so strongly. Here all was dim and calm and silent, deep 
shadows and mellow light ; there the great sun ruled in his 
strength, the leaping waters, the music of wind and waT<^ 
the songs of birds, man and beast, all was life and actioD, 
and the human soul which swelled to the exuberant har- 
monies of the one, subsided to the holy cadences of the other. 
Happy is he who truly sympathizes with Nature, and whose 
heart beats responsively to her melodies. One hour of such 
communion with our great and genial Mother ! How all the 
struggles of life, the petty aims and ambitions of men, 
dwindle before the comprehensive majesty of her teachings ! 
As we rode on, I tried in vain to recognize the features of 
the country, and the suspicion that we had missed our way 
passed into a certainty, when, emerging suddenly from a 
long reach of gloomy forest, we found ourselves upon the 
precipitous banks of the '* Laguna de Salinas." The declining 
moon shone slantingly upon that deep Avemian lake, with 
its cliffs casting the shadow of their frown over more than 
half its surface. I paused for a moment to look upon the 


slooniy picture, and tlien turned olT into the circuitous 
Iftmino real, which we bad now reached, for Granada. A 
ffiak ride of little more than half au hour brought us to the 
ienal, which etanda like a sentinel on the outmost limits 
[ of the city. Il no longer bristled with armed men, as it had 
done when we passed it sLx months before ; and the Jaltevo, 
which was then inserted and silent, was 
now all life and animation. Lights shone 
out from the open doors, and the merry 
laughter of children mingled with the 
' tinkling of guitars, and the not over me- 
, lodioua, nasal sentimentalities of love- 
L sick swains. The entire city wore a very 
different aspect from tliat which it had 
borne at the time of our 
arrival. The gloom, nol 
to say terror, which then 
oppressed all classes, had 
passed away ; and aa 
rode through the streets 

and witne^wl the apparent absence of want, of care for the 
preient, or concern for the future, I could not resist Ihe im- 


pression that probably no equal number of people in the 
world enjoyed more real happiness than these. With 
the mass of men, those whose higher powers of enjoyment 
have never been developed, and whose happiness depends 
chiefly upon the absence of physical wants, or upon the ease 
with which they may be gratified, the life of the people of 
Granada must come very near to their ideal of human exist- 
ence. And he will be a bold speculator, who having seen 
man under the various aspects, political or otherwise, in which 
the world presents him, shall deny the truth of the popular 
idea; and a bold innovator who, in vain aspirations for 
what he conceives necefesary for the popular welfiu^ shall 
disturb this illusion, if illusion it be, which the mass of 
mankind so fondly cherish. 

I had engaged quarters in advance, and rode to them at 
once. A large sala was ready for our reception, and in less 
than ten minutes a cup of foaming chocolate was smoking 
upon the sideboard. Our first visitor was our old fiiend. 
Dr. S., who brought with him another American, a bluff 
sailor from Albany, who, by a singular series of vicissitudes, 
had found his way to Granada. He had shipped from New 
York for Eio, thence to Callao, where the crew was paid oS, 
and the vessel sold. The world was all agog for California, 
and Jack, with his brother tars, also caught the fever. But 
how to get there was a question. Every vessel was over- 
crowded, and passages were at a rate fiw beyond the ability 
of any of them to pay. In this dilemma eight of their num- 
ber clubbed together and purchased an open whale-boat, 
which they victualled and watered to the best of their ability, 
and, with a daring eminently American, started on a voyage 
of upwards of four thousand miles. They put in once or 
twice to procure supplies, and had accomplished one-half of 
the distance, when they were overtaken by a storm, dis- 
masted, and capsized, and with the loss of two of their num- 
ber, after drifting for four days, with neither food nor drink, 


at the mercy of the winds and currents, were finally driven 
upon an unknown coast. Here a few wild fruits, some birds, 
and shell-fish, supplied the immediate wants of nature. Re- 
pairing their disabled boat, so far as they were able, without 
clothing, arms, or utensils of any sort, they coasted painfully 
along the shore for two days. On the third day they found 
a few Indians diving for pearls, who, alarmed at their appear- 
ance, fled into the forest. One was overtaken, and through 
the medium of some Spanish, little imderstood upon one side 
and still less upon the other, they ascertained that they were 
in the Bay of Culebra, in the department of Ouanacaste, the 
southern district of Nicaragua. The region along the coast 
was uninhabited, but after much difficulty they succeeded in 
reaching the little village of Santa Cruz, in the interior. 
Here a division of property, consisting of two old silver 
watches, and twelve dollars in cash, took place, and the party 
separated, each with four dollars wherewith to clothe himself, 
and commence the world again. Jack, who was something 
of a carpenter, tried to mend his fortunes by mending the 
houses of the people, but soon found that houses good or bad 
were of little consequence, and so hired himself to a vaquero 
who was about starting with a drove of mules for^the city of 
Nicaragua. The fiire was bad, and the labor incredible, and 
after three weeks of suflfering in the hot sun by day, and in 
pestilent damps at night, his feet lacerated by sharp stones, 
his body torn by thorns and inflamed from the bites of in- 
sects, with a raging fever which made him delirious for hours 
together, and caused his hair to drop in handfuls firom his 
head, — ^in this plight, poor Jack reached Nicaragua. And 
here, to crown his miseries, his rascally employer not only 
refused to pay him, but, while he was lying delirious in an 
outhouse, robbed him of his little store of money. When 
the fit had passed, he staggered out into the streets and to- 
wards the fields, muttering incoherently. The children were 
frightened by his haggard looks and bloodshot eyes, and fled 


as he reeled along. Fortunately, lie was seen by one of the 
citizens, who not only brought him to his own house, but 
sent at once for Dr. S., then accidentally in the city, who 
attended the poor fellow with characteristic humanity and 
unwearied assiduity, day and night, until he had recovered, 
and then took him to his own house in Granada. He was 
still weak, but fast regaining his strength, and I listened to 
his story, told with the bluflf heartiness of the sailor, with an 
interest which the art of the novelist could not heighten. I 
had the satisfaction, a couple of months later, of securing his 
passage on board a French vessel bound to that land of pro- 
mise to which he still looked forward with unwavering hope ; 
and since my return to the United States, I have received a 
letter from him, modestly announcing that he has amassed 
six thousand dollars, — the sum which " he was bound to win 
or die," and as one-third owner and mate of a little brig, was 
on the eve of starting for the Sandwich Islands on a trading 
venture ! 

Such, in this new land, is the course of Fortune. Jack, 
my good friend, may God speed thee, and may thy success 
be commensurate with thy honest deservings ! I need not 
wish thee pore than that ! 



Dec. 2, 1849. — ^This afternoon we prevailed upon Pedro — 
who, with his six stout sailors, had been drunk for a week, 
but were now sober and anxious to lay in a new supply of 
reals for another debauch — to take us over to the little island 
of Pensacola, almost within cannon-shot of the old castle of 
Granada. A young fellow, whilom a sailor, but now in the 
Dr.'s service, on half-pay, as honorary man of all-work, 
averred that upon this island were ^^piedras antiguas^^ of great 
size, but nearly buried in the earth. It seemed strange that 
in all our inquiries concerning antiquities, of the padres and 
licenciados, indeed of the " best informed" citizens of Gra- 
nada, we had not heard of the existence of these monuments. 
The Dr. was not a little skeptical, but experience had taught 
me that more information, upon these matters, was to be 
gathered from the bare-footed mozos than from the black- 
robed priests, and I was obstinate in my determination to 
visit Pensacola. 

It was late when we started, but in less than an hour we 
leaped ashore upon the island. It is one of the " out-liers" 
of the labyrinth of small islands which internal fires long 

VOL. n. 6 


ago thrust up from the depths of the lake, around the base 
of the volcano of Moraobacho ; and its shores are lined with 
immense rocks, black and blistered by the heat which ac- 
companied the ancient disruptions of which they are the evi- 
dences. In some places they are piled up in rough and frown- 
ing heaps, half shrouded by the luxuriant vines which na- 
ture trails over them, as if to disguise her own deformities. 
In the island of Pensacola these rocks constitute a semi-cir- 
cular ridge, nearly enclosing a level space of rich soil, — a 
kind of amphitheatre, looking towards the west, the prospect 
extending beyond the beach of Granada to the ragged hills 
and volcanic peaks aroimd the lake of Managua. Upon a 
little elevation, within this natural temple, stood an aban- 
doned cane hut, almost hidden by a forest of luxuriant plan- 
tains, which covered the entire area with a dense shadow, 
here and there pierced by a ray of sunlight, falling like mol- 
ten gold through narrow openings in the leafy roof. 

No sooner had we landed, than our men dispersed them- 
selves in search of the monuments, and we followed. We 
were not long kept in suspense ; a shout of " aquij aquir^ 
" here, here," from the Dr.'s man, announced that they were 
found. We hurried to his side. He was right ; we could 
distinctly make out two great blocks of stone, nearly hidden 
in the soil. The parts exposed, though frayed by storms, 
and having clearly suffered from violence, nevertheless bore 
evidences of having been elaborately sculptured. A demand 
was made for the machetes of the men ; and we were not 
long in removing enough of the earth to discover that the 
supposed blocks were large and well-proportioned statues, of 
superior workmanship and of larger size than any which we 
had yet encountered. The discovery was an exciting one, 
and the Indian sailors were scarcely less interested than our- 
selves. They crouched around the figures, and speculated 
earnestly concerning their origin. They finally seemed to 
agree that the larger of the two was no other than " Monte- 


zuma." It is a singular fact that the name and fame of the 
last of the Aztec emperors is cherished by all the Indian 
remnants from the banks of the Gila to the shores of Lake 
Nicaragua. Like the Pecos of New Mexico, some of the 
Indians of Nicaragua still indulge the belief that Montezuma 
will some day return, and reestablish his ancient empire. 

I was convinced that there were other monuments here, 
but the sun was going down, and having resolved to return 
the next day, I gave up the search, — not, however, without 
engaging Pedro to be ready, with men and tools, to return 
at sunrise the next morning. 

Pedro, for a miracle, was true to his word (probably be- 
cause he had no money wherewith to get drunk) ; and the 
dew was fresh on the leaves, the parrots chattered vocife- 
rously, and the waves toyed cheerfully with the black ba- 
saltic rocks, as we leaped ashore a second time on Pensacola. 
The boat was moored, coflFee speedily made and despatched, 
and then Pedro's crew stripped themselves naked, and made 
other formidable preparations for disinterring the idols. But 
the preparations were more formidable than the execution. 
They commenced very well, but long before the figures were 
exposed to view, they were all smitten with a desire to hunt 
up others,-^a plausible pretext for skulking away and 
stretching themselves on the ground beneath the plantains. 
I was at one time left wholly alone ; even Pedro had disap- 
peared ; but the rascals came tumbling together again when 
I proclaimed that the " aguardiente^^ was circulating. By 
dint of alternate persuasions and threats, we finally succeed- 
ed in getting the smaller of the two figures completely un- 
covered. It had evidently been purposely buried, for one 
of the arms had been broken in its fall into the pit which 
had been previously dug to receive it, and the face had been 
bruised and mutilated. In this way the early Catholic zeal- 
ots had endeavored to destroy the superstitious attachment 
of the aborigines to their monuments. It was, however, sat- 


isfkctory to reflect that the figures were probably, i 
whole, better preserved by tbeir long iDterment than if tliel 
had lieen suflereti to remain above p'oiusj. The next d 
cully was to raise the prostrate figure ; hot after maoh ; 
tHiration, propping, lifting, and vociferation, we sucoeedsd ni 
stBiidiog it up against the side of the hole which we luul dogl 
in such a position that my artist could pnifeed with fait 
sketch. It represented a humau male figure, of maffiivc ftfh 
portions, seated upon a square pcdistal, Jtfl liead sli^llyJ 
bent forward, and ite hands resting oil ite thighs, aAre))rc 
sented in the aceompanying PLATE, Xo. I, Above tbc 
rose a heavy and monslroiis representation of the head of a 
animal, below which could be traf^d tlie folds of a si 
the fierce bead of which was sculptured, open-mouthed aM 
with life-like accuracy, by tlio side of tlie ftice of the figi 
The whole combination was eUborato and striking. 

ITio stone from which the figure here described wag o 
n liard samktone, of aredilish color; but the sculptemj 
buld, and the limUs nnlike those of the monoliLlis 
arc detached so fiir as could be done with safety, and tt 
with a freedom which I have observed in no other 8ta 
worka of the American aborigines. 

To enable M. to make a drawing of the monument j 
disclosed, and to relicTu him from the annoyance of oar B 
I deferred proceeding with the exhumation of the rem 
one until he bad finished, and therefore summoned I 
hands to search the island for others, — stimulating thura 
tivity by the splendid offer of a rewanl of four reals (eqnirJ 
lent to two days' wages) to any one who Bhoukl make a d 
covery. I also joined in the search, but after wandering i 
over the litlie island, I came to the conclusion Ihnt, if thei 
were others, of which I bad little doul't, they had been s 
eesBfulIy buried, and were past finding out, or else liad I 
broken up and removed. So I seated myself philosopWaJl J 
upon a roct, and watched an army of black anW, ' * " " 



imi. // / 



! defiling past, as if muking a tour of l.lie ishind. They 

wed a solid t'olumii from livo to six iiicbes wide, and 

pched Btraiglit on, turning ueitlier to the right band nor 

^bc left, pertinaciously surmounting every obstacle which 

brposed. I watched (hem Sot mure than half on hour, 

I tbeir nnmhur seemed undiminished; thousands upon 

tsands hurried past, until finally, attracted by curiosity, 

e and followed the iiuc, in onler to diHcovor tUfe dostina- 

r the procession, — if it were au invasion, a migration, 

pit) ploiisuTfl extursioa. At a short distance, and 

e cover of some bushes, llie column mounted what 

1 to be simply a large, roojid stone, passed over it, 

s maivh. 

I stone attracted iny attention, and on observing it 
; I perceived traces of sculpture. I aunuuonod 
I, and after a two hours' trial ot patience and temper, 
i in raisiug from its hed of cflottiries another idol 
ft proportions, but difforing entirely from the others, 
g an oxtraordiuary and forbidding aspect. (See 
The lower half had been broten of^ and 
B found; what renuiiued was simply the bust anU 
! latter was ilisproiiortionatcly great; tbc eyes 
I round, and i^tiii'iiig; the t-ars broad itud long; 
I wielely-disteTided mouth, tbe lower jaw of 
b forced down by the hands of the figure, pro- 
iagae which reached to the breast, giving to the 
s unnatural and horrible expression. As it stood in 
vith ita monstrous hcnil rising above the ground, 
ixed Btony gaze, it seemed like some gray monster 
iging from the depths of the earth, at the bidding 
I wizard-priest of an unholy religion. My men stood 
c thiiu one crossed himself as ho muttered to 
sel diithla!" "it is the devill" I readily 
t the awe with whicli it might be regarded by 
f thfl ancient religion, when the bloody priest 


daubed the lapping tongue with the yet palpitating hearts of 
his human victims ! 

It was long past noon before we commenced the task of 
raising the largest and by far the most interesting idol to an 
erect position. This was no easy undertaking. The stone, 
although not more than nine feet high, measured ten feet in 
circumference, and was of great weight. We were but 
eleven men all told ; Pedro said it was useless to try, we 
might turn it over, but nothing more. Still I was deter- 
mined it should be raised, not only for the purpose of 
observing its effect in that position, but because I was con- 
vinced that the under side must exhibit more clearly the 
finer details of the sculpture than the upper, which had been 
partially exposed above the ground. I gave each man a 
prodigious dram of cu/uardiente^ which inspired corresponding 
courage, and after procuring an additional number of stout 
levers and props, we proceeded to raise the recumbent maes. 
Our progress was slow and diificult, the sweat rolled in 
streams down the glossy skins of our sailors, who — ^thanks to 
the ardiente — ^worked with more vigor than I thought them 
capable of exerting. The aguardiente was worth more than 
gold to me that day. The men shouted and cheered, and cried, 
^^arriha con la nifia /" " up with the baby !" But before we 
got it half raised, a thunder-storm, the approach of which 
had escaped our notice in the excitement, came upon us, as 
only a tropical thunder-storm knows how to come. I beat a 
retreat, dripping with perspiration, into the deserted hut; 
while the men sat coolly down and took the pelting, — ^they 
were used to it! The storm passed in due time, but the 
ground was saturated, and the feet sank deeply in the soft, 
sticky mass around the "nifia." Still, in order to save 
another visit in force the next day, I determined not to 
rehnquish the task we had begun. But the difficulties were 
now augmented, and it was only afl^r the most extraordinary 
exertions, at imminent danger of crushed limbs, that we 


succeeded in our object. With bleeding hands, and com- 
pletely bedaubed with mud, I had at last the satisfaction 
to lead oflF in a " Viva par la niria antigva /" — " Hurrah for 
the old baby !" I am not quite sure but I took a drop of the 
aguardiente myself, while the shower was passing. Pedro 
and his crew responded by a " Vivan los Americanos del 
Norte r^ which, being interpreted, meant that they "wouldn't 
object to another drink." This was given of course, where- 
upon Pedro insinuated that " Los Americanos so7i diahlos /" — 
"The Americans are devils;" which remark, however, Pedro 
meant as a compliment. The figure, when erect, was truly 
grand. It represented a man with massive limbs, and broad, 
prominent chest, in a stooping or rather crouching posture, 
his hands resting on his thighs, just above the knees. (Plate 
III.) Above his head rose the monstrous head and jaws 
of some animal ; its fore paws were placed one upon each 
shoulder, and the hind ones upon the hands of the statue, as 
if binding them to the thighs. It might be intended, it 
probably was intended, to represent an alligator or some 
mythological or fabulous animal. Its back was covered with 
carved plates, like rough mail. The whole rose from a 
broad, square pedestal. The carving, as in the other figure, 
was bold and free. I never have seen a statue which con- 
veyed so forcibly the idea of power and strength ; it was a 
study for a Samson under the gates of Gaza, or an Atlas 
supporting the world. The face was mutilated and dis- 
figured, but it still seemed to wear an expression of sternness, 
if not severity, which added greatly to the effect of the whole. 
The finer details of workmanship around the head had 
suffered much ; and from the more decided marks of violence 
which the entire statue exhibits, it seems probable that it 
was an especial object of regard to the aborigines, and of 
corresponding hate to the early Christian zealots. 

The sun came out brightly after the rain, and although 
wet and weary, and not insensible to the comforts of dry 


clothes and the seductions of a hammock, I could hardly tear 
myself away from these remarkable monuments — overturned 
perhaps by the hands of Gil Gonzalez himself at the time 
when, in the language of the chronicler, " the great cazique 
Nicaragua consented to be baptized, together with nin6 thou- 
sand of his subjects, and thus the country became converted." 
" The great idols in his sumptuous temples," continues the 
historian, ** were thrown down, and the cross set up in their 
stead." The same authority assures us that " Nicaragua was a 
chief of great good wit, and though the Spanish captain was a 
discreet man, it puzzled him much to explain to Nicaragua 
why it was that so few men as the Spaniards coveted so 
much gold." 

M. returned the next day and completed his drawings, 
whUe I busied myself in preparing for a voyage to the great 
uninhabited island of Zapatero. 

The T.'s had volunteered one of their bongos, one of the 
largest and most comfortable on the lake ; and as most of 
this kind of unique craft are only gigantic canoes, hollowed 
from a single trunk of the cebia, and quite as well fitted, and 
just as much disposed, to sail upon their sides or bottom up 
as any other way, it was a gratification to know that ** La 
Carlota" had been built with something of a keel, by a foreign 
shipwright, and that the prospect of being upset in the first 
blow was thereby diminished from three chances in four, to 
one in two. The voyager who has sailed on the restless lake 
of Nicaragua in gusty weather, with bungling sailors, can 
well comprehend the satisfaction with which we contem- 
plated " La Carlota," as she rocked gracefiilly at her moor- 
ings, off the old castle on the shore. She was perhaps 
sixty feet long, and her chopa was capable of accommo- 
dating four or five persons with lodgings, — something in the 
pickled mackerel order, it is true, but not uncomfortably, in 
the moderated views of comfort which the traveller in Cen- 
tral America soon comes to entertain. In fi-ont of the chopa 



were ten benobes, for as many oarsmen, and places for setting 
up the masts, in ease the winds should permit of their use, 
" La Carlota," withal, was painted on the outside, and had 
a figure head ; indeed, take her all in all, she looked a frigate 

among the numerous strange pit-pans, pir}^;ua8, and other 
anomalous and nameless water-craft around her. Thus far 
all was well. The next thing was to get a crew together ; 
but this devolved upon the junior Mr. T, After two days of 
exertion, for there was a great conjunction oi fiestas at the 
time, they were enlisted and duly paid, — everybody expects 
_say in advance in Central America I A fixed number of 
reals were counted out for the commissary department, and 
the patron, Juan, solemnly promised to be ready to set sail 
the next morning at sunrise for the island of Zapaiero, the 
"Shoemaker," where Manuel, who was to go along as a guide, 


assured us there were many frailes, finars, some kneeling, 
others sitting, and still others standing erect, or reclining as 
if in death, besides many other wonderful and curious things, 
among which was a deep salt lake. 

The Dr. and myself completed our arrangements over 
night. After breakfast the next morning, which had been 
fixed for our departure, I proposed to go down to the lake, 
supposing that as Juan had promised to be ready by sunrise, 
we might possibly succeed in getting oflf by nine or ten 
o'clock at the furthest. The Dr., however, protested that it 
was useless to go down so early, — " he was not going to broil 
in the sun, on the open beach, all the forenoon, not he;" and 
he comforted us with the assurance that he had lived in the 
country ten years, and that if we got off before the middle of 
the afternoon, we might perform any surgical operation we 
pleased upon either one of his legs ! My time was limited, 
and these vexatious delays almost worried me into a fever. 
At eleven o'clock, however, I prevailed upon the Dr., much 
against his will, and amidst his earnest protestations that he 
" knew the people, and that it was no kind of use," to go 
down to the shore. There swung our bongo, precisely as we 
had left it the day before, and not a soul on board I The 
shore was covered with groups of half-naked women, seated 
just at the edge of the water, engaged in an operation here 
called washing, which consisted in dipping the articles in the 
water, and placing them on a rough stone, and beating 
them violently with a club, to the utter demolition of every- 
thing in the shape of buttons ! Groups of children were 
paddling in little pools, or playing in the sand ; sailors just 
arrived were landing their cargoes, carrying the bales on 
their shoulders through the breakers, and depositing them in 
creaking carts; here and there a horseman pranced along 
under the shadow of the trees on the shore; and amongst all, 
imperturbable buzzards in black, and long-legged cranes in 
white, walked about with prescriptive freedom I Altogether 


it was a singular mixture of civilized and savage life, and 
one not likely to be forgotten by the observant traveller. 

I was, however, in no mood to enjoy the scene, — and the 
Dr.'s "I told you so I" as he quietly seated himself on a log 
in the shade, was cruelly provoking. After diligent search, 
we found two of our crew, with only a cloth wrapped around 
their loins, lying flat on the sands, their faces covered with 
their sombreros, and the hot sun beating down upon their 
naked bodies, — ^perfect pictures of the intensest lazines& 
** Where is the patron ?" They simply lifted their hats, and 
reponded, "Quien sabe?" "Who knows?" The eternal 
"Quien sabe," and uttered without so much as an attempt to 
rise! This was unendurable ; I gave them each an emphatic 
kick in the ribs with my rough travelling boots, which 
brought them to their feet in an instant, with a deprecatory 
exclamation of "/SfefJor/" One was despatched to hunt up 
the others among the pulperias of the town, with emphatic 
threats of great bodily harm, if the delinquents were not 
produced within a given time. The second one, a strapping 
Mestizo, who still rubbed his side with a lugubrious expres- 
sion of face, was ordered to deposit himself within short 
range of my formidable-looking " Colt," with an injunction 
not to move unless ordered. Directly, another recreant was 
discovered, doing the agreeable to a plump coffee-colored 
washing-girl, — nothing chary of her charms, as may be 
inferred from the fact that excepting a cloth, none of the 
largest, thrown over her lapy she was au ncUurel He too was 
ordered to take up his position beside the other prisoner, 
which he did with a bad grace, but greatly to the pretended 
satis&ction of the coffee-oolored girl, who said that he was 
" maJo,^^ bad, and deserved all sorts of iU. " A woman is 
naturally a coquette, whether in a white skin or black," 
philosophized the Dr. ; "that yellow thing don't mean what 
she says. Fll wager they have just agreed to get married, 
or what is the same thing in these countries." 


It was high noon long before we got our vagrant ciew 
under our batteries ; and conscious of their delinquencies, and 
not a little in awe of our pistol butts, they really exerted 
themselves in getting the boat ready. Half a dozen naked 
fellows plunged into the sur^ their black bodies alternately 
appearing and disappearing in the waves, and towed the 
" Carlota" close in shore, under the lee of the old castle. The 
sails, our provisions, blankets, etc., were placed on board, 
and then we mounted on the shoulders of the strongest, and 
were duly deposited on the quarter-deck. The bells of the 
city chimed two o'clock, as we swept outside of the fort into 
the rough water. It was all the men could do to overcome 
the swell, and the sweeps bent under their vigorous strokes. 
Once in deep water, the waves were less violent, but they 
had the long, majestic roll of the ocean. Here every oarsman 
pulled off his breeches, his only garment, deposited his som- 
brero in the bottom of the boat, and lighted a cigar ; they 
were now in full uniform, and pulled sturdily at the oara. 
Juan, the patron, drew off his breeches also, but, by way 
of maintaining the dignity of the quarter-deck, or out of 
respect to his passengers, he kept on his shirt, a flaming red 
check, and none of the longest, which, as he bestrode the 
tiller, fluttered famously in the wind. 

One hour's hard pulling, and we were among the islands. 
Here the water was still and glassy, while the waves dashed 
and chafed with a sullen roar against the iron shores of the 
outer rank, as if anxious to invade the quiet of the inner 
recesses, — ^those narrow, verdure-arched channels, broad, crys- 
tal-floored vistas, and cool, shady nooks in which graceful 
canoes were here and there moored. 

Perhaps a more singular group of islets cannot be found in 
the wide world. As I have before said, they are all of vol- 
canic origin, generally conical in shape, and seldom exceed- 
ing three or four acres in area. All are covered with a cloak 
of verdure, but nature is not always successful in hiding the 


black rocks which start out in places, as if in disdain of all 
concealment, and look frowningly down on the clear water, 
giving an air of wildness to the otherwise soft and quiet 
scenery of the islands. Trailing over these rocks, and drop- 
ping in festoons from the overhanging trees, their long pliant 
tendrils floating in the waves, are innumerable vines, with 
bright and fragrant flowers of red and yellow, mingled with 
the inverted cone of the "gloria de Nicaragua," with its 
overpowering odor, with strange and nameless fruits, forming 
an evergreen roof, so close that even a tropical sun cannot 
penetrate. Many of these islands have patches of cultivated 
ground, and on such, generally crowning their summits, 
relieved by a dense green background of plantains, and sur- 
rounded by kingly palms, and the papaya with its golden 
fruit, are the picturesque cane huts of the inhabitants. 
Groups of naked, swarthy children in front, — a winding path 
leading beneath the great trees down to the water's edge, — 
an arbor-like, miniature harbor, with a canoe lashed to the 
shore, — a woman naked to the waist, with a purple skirt of 
true Tyrian dye, for the famous murex is found on the Pacific 
shores of Nicaragua, her long, black, glossy hair falling over 
neck and breast, and reaching almost to her knees, — a flock of 
noisy parrots in a congressional squabble among the trees, — a 
swarm of parroquets scarcely less noisy, — a pair of vociferat- 
ing macaws like floating fragments of a rainbow in the air, — 
inquisitive monkeys hanging among the vines, — active igua- 
nas scrambling up the banks, — ^long-necked and long-legged 
cranes in deep soliloquy at the edge of the water, their white 
bodies standing out in strong relief against a background of 
rock and verdure, — a canoe glancing rapidly and noiselessly 
across a vista of water, — all this, with a golden sky above, the 
purple sides of the volcano of Momobacho overshadowing us, 
and the distant shores of Chontales molten in the slanting 
sunlight, — these were some of the elements of the scenery of 
the islands, — elements constantly shifting, and forming new 


and pleasing combinations. Seated upon the roof of the 
chopa, I forgot in contemplating the changing scenery the 
annoyances of the morning, and felt almost disposed to ask 
the pardon of the marineros whom I had treated so uncere- 

Our men, for we were now in the cool shadow of the 
mountain, pulled bravely at the oars, chanting a song which 
seems to be eminently popular amongst all classes of the 
people. I could not catch the whole of it, but it commenced : 

" Memorias dolorosas 
De mi traidor amante, 
Huye de mi un instante 
Haced lo por piedad." 

At the end of each stanza they gave a sharp pull at the sweeps, 
and shouted "Aoo-j^oA/" — a freak which seemed to entertain 
them highly, although we " couldn't exactly see the point 
of it" It was nearly sunset when we arrived at Manuel's 
islands ; for though Manuel went with us as a guide, at the 
rate of three reals per day, he had, nevertheless, a house in 
town, not to mention a couple of islands, upon one of which 
was his country-seat, and upon the other his plantain walk 
and fruitery. His country-seat consisted of a cane hut ; but 
he proudly pointed out to us a heap of new tiles and a pile of 
poles, and said he meant one day to have apalacio on Santa 
Rosa, for so he called his island. I did not envy him his 
prospective palace, but Santa Rosa was a gem. Its outer 
shore, fronting the turbulent water, was lined with immense 
rocks, within which was a barrier of large trees, draped over 
with vines, and completely sheltering Manuel's hut from the 
winds and storms of the lake. Upon the inner side was a 
little, crescent-shaped harbor, in which our bongo rocked 
lazily to and fro. A couple of tall cocoa trees, a cluster of 
sugar-canes, and a few broad-leaved plants at the water's edge, 
gave a tropical aspect to the islet, which looked to me, in the 



subdued half-light of the evening, as a very paradise for a 

Juan proposed to stay here for the night, as the wind was 
now too violent to permit us to venture outside of the islands ; 
besides, our improvident men had yet to lay in their supply 
of plantains — the staflF of life to the inhabitants of Central 
America. A little boat was accordingly despatched to a 
neighboring island, for these indispensable articles, while the 
remainer of the crew made supper for themselves. A single 
kettle, their machetes and fingers were their only service, 
but it was an effective one, and they made themselves as 
merry as if there was nothing in the wide world left to wish 
for. For ourselves, a cup of coffee and a cut of cold chicken 

The moon was nearly at her full, and the transition from 
day to night was so gradual as hardly to be perceived. Eosy 
clouds hung long in the west, changing slowly to deep pur- 
ple and grey ; but when the dominion of the moon came on, 
they lighted up again with a silver radiance. A mass, like 
a half transparent robe, rolled itself around the summit of 
the volcano; the verdure of the island looked dense and 
heavy upon one side, while the other was light, and relieved 
by glancing trunks and branches. Deep shadows fell on 
water, with shining strips of silver between, and except the 
chafing of the lake upon the outer shores, and the prolonged 
moan of the howling monkey, there was not a sound to dis- 
turb the silence. It is true our men talked long, but it was 
in a low tone, as if they feared to disturb the general quiet. 
They finally stretched themselves on their benches, and my 
companions wrapped themselves in their blankets and com- 
posed themselves for the night. I did so also, but I could 
not sleep ; it was not the holy calm of the scene — the remem- 
brance of dear fiiends, or those dearer than friends — it was 
no sentimental revery, no pressure of official cares, that 
kept me awake that night, — but it was *4as pulgas," the fleas 


from Manuel's Santa Eosa ! They seemed to swarm in my 
clothing. I waited in vain for them to get their fill and be 
quiet, but they were insatiable, and almost maddened me. 
I got out upon the pineta, and there, under the virgin moon, 
carefully removed every article of my apparel, and lashed 
and beat it angrily over the sides, in the hope of shaking off 
the vipers. The irritation which they had caused was unen- 
durable, and, overcoming all dread of alligators and fever, I 
got over the side, and cooled myself in the water. I did not 
go beneath the chopa again, but wrapped my blankets 
around me, and coiled myself on the pineta. 

I had just fallen into a doze, when I was awakened by the 
clattering of oars, and found Juan, with his flaming, flutter- 
ing shirt, standing over me at the rudder. It was about two 
o'clock, and as the wind had abated a little, our patron 
seized upon the opportunity to run down to Zapatero. He 
had no notion, in which I agreed with him, of attempting 
the trip with a light boat, in the midst of the fierce northers 
which prevail at this season of the year. I had been a little 
nervous about the business from the start, for I had spent 
one night upon this lake which I am not likely to forget, — 
and had exacted a promise from the men to load in stones, 
at the islands, by way of ballast. They made a show of 
compliance, and next morning I succeeded in finding some 
twenty-five or thirty small stones deposited near the first 
mast, weighing in all, perhaps, two hundred pounds ! 

A short spell at the oars, and we were outside of the island. 
A broad bay stretched dimly inwards towards the city of 
Nicaragua ; and directly before us, at the distance of twenty 
miles, rose the high, irregular island of Zapatero; beyond 
which a stationary mass of silvery clouds showed the posi- 
tion of the majestic volcanic cones of the great island of 
Ometepec. The wind was still strong and the waves high, 
and the boat tumbled about with an unsteady motion. 
Amidst a great deal of confusion the sails were raised — sails 


large enough for an Indiaman, for the marineros of Lake 
Nicaragua consider that everything depends on the size of 
the canvas. The " Carlota " was schooner-rigged, and no 
sooner was she brought to the wind, than her saik filled, and 
she literally bounded forward like a race-horse. She heeled 
over until her guards touched the water, precipitating the 
Dr., who insisted on remaining within the chopa, from one 
side to the other, amidst guns, books, blankets, pistols, bot- 
tles, and all the et ceteras of a semi-pleasure excursion. But, 
as I have said, he was a philosopher, swore a little, rubbed 
his shins, and braced himself crosswise. I remained outside, 
and hung tightly to the upper guards. The lull, if it can so 
be called, under which we had started, was only temporary. 
Before we had accomplished a tenth of the distance to the 
island, the wind came on to blow with all its original 
violence. The waters fairly boiled around us, and hissed 
and foamed beneath our stern. I cried to Juan, who was 
struggling at the rudder, to take in sail, for the canvas almost 
touched the water, and seemed really bursting with the strain, 
but he responded " too late," and braced himself with his 
shoulder against the tiller, holding with both hands to the 
guards. I expected every moment that we would go over, — 
but on, onward, we seemed actually to fly. The outlines of 
Zapatero grew every moment more distinct, and little islands 
before undistinguished came into view. As we neared them, 
the wind lulled again, and we breathed freer when we dashed 
under the lee of the little island of Chancha, and threw out our 
anchor close to the shore. " Holy Mary," said Juan, as he 
wiped the sweat from his forehead, " the devils are out in 
the lake to-night !" We had made upwards of twenty miles 
in less than two hours. 

I crept within the chopa, where the Dr. was rubbing his 
bruises with brandy, and slept until aroused by the loud 
barking of dogs. The sun was up ; we were close to a little 
patch of cleared land, upon one side of which, half-hidden 

VOL. II. 7 



tmoitg the trees, wiis & single hat. The owner, his wile, t 
chiliireii, acii his dogs, were down on the shores, and t 
secnii^ ciiaalljr corioaa to know the object of our audcti 
visit. Jnan frightened them with an account i)t' n terribta 
revolotion, how he was flying from the dangers of ika mai 
and advisetl the isliinder to koepasharp look-out for his 
safetj. The Dr,, liowever, delivered the poor man froa 
his riiniig fears, and ordered Juan to pnl on his shin and pnl 
Oeross the channel to Zupatero. An inviting, calm harbc 
was before ns, lint wc wcnr sepural^nl from ii by a cliannel 
fire hundred yards broad, through which the compress 
wind forced the waters of the lake with the utmost violei 
It seemed as if a great and angry river was nishiog witH 
irresistible fury past ua. A high, rocky, jwijecting point 
Zapatero in pan intercepted the current below ub, s 
which the water dashed witli a fimx- like that of the ooeailf 
throwing the spray many feet up its rocky aides. The me) 
hesitated in starting, but finally braced themselves in tboie 
seats, and pushed into tlie stream. The liret shock swept u 
rcsisllessly before it, but the men pulled witii all their foic 
under a voUey ol' slioula from Jiian, who threw up his a 
and stumped on his little quarlt-r-deek like a madman. 
Wax his way of giving encouragement. The struggle wW 
long and severe, and we were once so near the rocks lliat ihq 
reoiliug sj^ray fell on our heads ; but we finally succ* 
in resichiug the little, sheltered hay of which I have spuket 
and, amidst the screams of the thonsand waterfowls which vi 
distnrbctl, glided into a snug httle harbor, beneath a ^re* 
jng tree, the bow of our boat resting on the sandy short 
**Hcre "t last," cried M., and bounded ashore, I a 
t pistol and sword, and followed, and leaving tlie Dr, ntri 
^Ae men to prepare coffee and breakfast, started in c 
paiiy with Manuel to see the "Jimtes." Manue] was armef 
with a double-barrelled gun, for this island has no inhaban 
acts, and is proverbial fur the number of its wild animal^'W 


which find a fit home in its lonely fSwtnesses. I carried a 
first-class Colt in one hand, and a short, heavy, two-edged 
Roman sword in the other, as well for defence as for cutting 
away the limbs, vines, and bushes which impede every step 
in a tropical forest. Manuel said it was but a few squares 
to the "/mifes," but we walked on and on, through patches 
of forest and over narrow savannahs, covered with coarse, 
high, and tangled grass, until I got tired, Manuel looked 
pulled; he did not seem to recognize the land-marks. 
When he had been there before, it was in the midst of the dry 
season, and the withered grass and underbrush, stripped of 
leaves, afforded no obstruction to the view. Still he kept on, 
but my enthusiasm, between an empty stomach and a long 
walk, was fast giving place to violent wrath towards Manuel, 
when suddenly that worthy dropped his gun, and uttering 
a scream, leaped high in the air, and turning, dashed past 
me with the speed of an antelope. I cocked my pistol, and 
stood on my guard, expecting that nothing less than a tiger 
would confront me. But I was spared the excitement of an 
adventure, and nothing making its appearance, I turned to 
look for Manuel. He was rolling in the grass like one pos- 
sessed, and rubbing his feet and bare legs with a most rueful 
expression of face. He had trodden on a bees' nest, and as 
he had taken oflf his breeches, to avoid soiling them, before 
starting, I " improved " the occasion to lecture him on the 
impropriety of such practices on the part of a Christian, a 
householder, and the father of a family. I was astonished, I 
said, that he, a gentleman past the middle age of life, the 
owner of two islands, should make such a heathen of him- 
self as to go without his breeches. And as I have heard the 
special interposition of Providence urged on no more im- 
portant occasions than this, at home, I felt authorized in 
assuring him that it was clearly a signal mark of Divine 
displeasure. Manuel appeared to be much edified, and as I 
was better protected than himself, he prevailed upon me to 


recover his gun, whereupon, taking another path, we pushed 

After toiling for a long time, we came suddenly upon the 
edge of an ancient crater of great depth, at the bottom of 
which was a lake of yellowish green, or sulphurous color, the 
water of which Manuel assured me was salt. This is proba- 
bly the fact, but I question much if any human being ever 
ventured down its rocky and precipitous sides. Manuel now 
seemed to recognize his position, and turning sharp to .the 
left, we soon came to a broad, level area, covered with im- 
mense trees, and with a thick undergrowth of grass and 
bushes. There were here some large, irregular mounds com- 
posed of stones, which I soon discovered were artifidaL 
Around these Manuel said the frailes were scattered, and he 
commenced cutting right and left with his machete. I fol- 
lowed his example, and had not proceeded more than five 
steps, when I came upon an elaborately sculptured statue, 
still standing erect. It was about the size of the smaller one 
discovered at Pensacola, but was less injured, and the face 
had a mild and benignant aspect. It seemed to smile on me 
as I tore aside the bushes which covered it, and appeared 
almost ready to speak. {See Monuments of ZapaterOj No. 1.) 
In clearing further, but a few feet distant, I found another 
fallen figure. From Manuel's shouts I knew that he had 
discovered others, and I felt assured that many more would 
reward a systematic investigation — and such I meant to 

I was now anxious to return to the boat, so as to bring my 
entire force on the ground ; and calling to Manuel, I started. 
Either Manuel took me a shorter path than we came, or else I 
was somewhat excited and didn't mind distances ; at any rate, 
wc were there before I expected. The sailors listened curi- 
ously to our story, and Juan, like Pedro before him, whis- 
pered that " los Americanos son diablosy He had lived, man 
and boy, for more than forty years within sight of the island. 


and had many times been blockaded by bad weather in the 
very harbor where we now were, and yet he had never seen, 
nor ever so mucli as heard that there were ^^frailes '' there ! 

During our absence, a weather-bound canoe, with Indians 
from Onietepec, discovering our boat, had put in beside us. 
They were loaded with fruit for Granada, and ** walked into" 
our good graces by liberal donations of papayas^ maranons, 
oramjes^ pomegranateSy zapoteSy etc. They were small but well- 
built men, with more anguhir features than the Indians of 
Leon, and betraying a dilFercnt stock. It will be seen, as 
we proceed, that they are of Mexican origin. All had their 
heads closely shaved, with the exception of a narrow fringe 
of hair around the forehead, extending from one ear to the 
other — a practice which has become very general among the 
people. I admired their well-formed limbs, and thought 
how serviceable half-a-dozen such stout fellows would be 
amongst the monuments, and incontinently invited them to 
accompany us, which invitation they accepted, much to my 

Leaving a couple of men to watch the boats, I marshalled 
my forces, and set out for the ^^'/railesy Wc mustered 
twenty-four strong, a force which I assured myself was suf- 
ficient to set up once more the fallen divinities, and possibly 
to remove some of them. As we went along, we cleared a 
good path, which, before we left, began to have the appear- 
ance of a highway. 

While M. commenced drawing the monument which still 
stood erect, I proceeded with the men to clear away the 
bushes and set up the others. I knew well that the only 
way to accomplish anything was to keep up the first excite- 
ment, which I did by liberal dispensations of aguardiente — 
the necessities of the case admitted of no alternative. The 
first monument which claimed our attention was a well- ' 
cut figure, seated crouching on the top of a high, ornamented 
pedestal. The hands were crossed below the knees, the 


head bent forward, and the eyes widely opened, a^ if gaKlng-fl 
upou some oVyeci upon the ground before lU A raass of J 
stone rose from between tlie shoulder^ having the ap[)eaniDOe I 
of « conical c«]> when viewed from tlic lh>nt. {Sfe PiaU%M 
Xo. i.) It niis cut with great boldness and freedoiti, frum & J 
block of luisalt, unci hsid sufTurvd very Utile from the I 
of time. 

A !n)le was dug to receive the lower end, ropes were fiut-a 
ened urouiidit, our whole foree was disposed to tho bost ad-l 
vantage, and at a given signal, I had the eati^uclion of w 
the figure rise slowly and safely to its (Higinal inisilion. N« 
sooner was it secured in plaw, than our sailors gave a g 
shout, and forming a doubli; ring around it, a>mineivced a 
outrageous dance, in the patiscs of whieh they iimdu the lAA, 
woods ring again with their favorite " koo-pah !" I did nobj 
like to have my ardimle efiervescc in this manner, ibr I knew" 
the escitemcnt, onc« cooled, eonid not be revived ; so I brolEB] 
into the circle, and dragging out Joan by main force, led lun 
to the next monument, \*liich Manuel called ''KlT?]i||oB)^ 
the Cannon. 

It was a massive, cylindriesil block of stone, about M ti 
and twice as thick as the twin brother of the Eiiinous "peao6^ 
maker," now in the Brooklyn navy-yard. It w 
by raised bands, elaborately ornamented ; and upon the topi 
watt the lower half of a suiall and neatly cut figure. In AoM 
front of the pedestal were two niches, deeply sunk, and rogn-T 
lar in form, connected by a groove. They were cvidcntlyl 
aymbolical. Notwithstanding the excitement of the uien,.t 
they lookixl dubiously ujion this heavy mass of sculpture;!^ 
but 1 oijcned another bottle of aguanlieuie, and taking one I 
of the leverg myself, told them to lay hold. A hole wnsdiig,.J 
as in the former cJise, but we could only niiso the stooe bjrl 
degrees, by means of thick leverg After mnuh labor, hjM 
alternate lifting and blix^king, we got it at an angle of forty* i 
live degrees, and there it appeareil determined to stay, \tti 


passed ropes around the adjacent trees, and plsuced falls above 
it, and when all was ready, and every man at his post, I gave 
the signal for a coup de main. The ropes creaked and tight- 
ened, every muscle swelled, but the figure did not move. 
It was a critical moment ; the men wavered ; I leaped to the 
rope.s. and shouted at the top of my voice, ^^ Arriba! arriba! 
viva Centra America /" The men seemed to catch new spirit ; 
th Tc was another and simultaneous eflfort, — ^the mass yield- 
ed ; ^^poco 7nasy miichachos /" " a little more, boys !" and up 
it went, slowly, but up, up, until, tottering dangerously, it 
settled into its place and was secured. The men were silent 
for a moment, as if astonished at their own success, and then 
broke out in another paroxysm of ardiente and excitement. 
But this time each man danced on his own account, and 
strove to outdo his neighbor in wild gesticulation. I inter- 
fered, but they surrounded me, instead of the figure, and 
danced more madlv than before, amidst "vivas" for North 
America. But the dance ended with my patience, — luckily 
not before. By a judicious use of aguardiente, I managed 
to keep up their spirits, and by four o'clock in the afternoon, 
we had all the monuments we could find, ten in number, 
securely raised and ready for the draughtsman. Besides 
these, we afterwards succeeded in discovering a number of 
others, — amounting in all to fifteen perfect, or nearly perfect 
ones, besides some fragments. 

The men, exhausted with fatigue, disposed themselves in 
groups around the statues, or stretched their bodies at Icnirth 
amongst the bushes. Wearied myself, but witli the com- 
placency of a father contemplating his children, and without 
yet venturing to speculate upon our singular discoveries, I 
seated myself upon a broad, flat stone, artificially hollowed 
in the centre, and gave rein to fency. The bushes were 
cleared away, and I could easily make out the positions of 
the ruined teooalli, and take in the whole plan of the great 
aboriginal temple. Over all now towered immense trees, 


shrouded in long robes of grey moss, which hung in masses 
from every limb, and swayed solemnly in the wind. I 
almost fancied them in mourning for the departed glories of 
the place. In fact, a kind of superstitious feeling, little in 
consonance with the severity of philosophical investigation, 
began to creep over me. Upon one side were steep cliffs, 
against which the waters of the lake chafed with a subdued 
roar, and upon the other was the deep, extinct crater, with 
its black sides and sulphurous lake ; it was in truth a weird 
place, not unfittingly chosen by the aboriginal priesthood as 
the theatre of their strange and gloomy rites. While en- 
gaged ic these fanciful reveries, I stretched myself, almost 
unconsciously, upon the stone where I was sitting. My 
limbs fell into place as if the stone had been made to receive 


them, — my head was thrown back, and my breast raised ; a 
second, and the thou<?ht flashed across mv mind with start- 
ling force — " Uie stone of sacrifice /" I know not whether it 
was the scene, or the current of my thoughts, perhaps both, 
but I leaped up with a feeling half of alarm. I observed the 
stone more closelv ; it was a rude block altered bv art, and 
had beyond question been used as a stone of sacrifice. 1 
afterwards found two others, clearly designed for the same 
purpose, but they had been broken. 

The relative positions of the mounds or ruined Teocalli, 
as also of the monuments, are shown in the subjoined 
Plan. These mounds are made up of loose, unhewn stones, 
heaped together in apparent confusion. But although they 
now show no evidences of the fact, vet it is undoubted that 
they were originally regular in their forms ; for we have the 


direct assurances of the early chroniclcra, that the adoratorioa 
or aluira of the aboriginal ioliabitauta were conieal and pyra- 
midal in shape, like those of Mexico, and like them, ascended 
by steps. It was upon the summits of these tiiat sacrifices 

were performed. Their present dilapidation is probably due 
no less to the hostile zeal of the conquerors who " broke 
down the altars" of the Indians, than to the do.-'tnivinji as- 
■laulu of time and the elements, I attempted to penetrate 
into one of them, {A, in the Plan,) and removed a great <] uau- 
tity of stones, to the depth of several feet, at im mi incut risk 
of being stung by scorpions, but discovered nothing to repay 
me for my toil. The whole seemed to be a muss of rough 
stones, largely intermixed with broken pottery, some of I lie 
fragments of which were not only of fine material, but showed 
that the vessels of which they were once parts had been 
elaborately painted in brilliant colors, still retaining tlieir 
original freshness and beauty. These mounds do not seem 
to have been arranged with any regularity in resj>eet to 
each other; neither do the monuments themselves dL^play 
any apparent design in their relative positions. It may be 
VOL. IL 8 


N IC AKAr. r A— \- A R RATI V B. 

questioned, hcDwever, whether ihu latter Imve not been i 
moved from the places where ihey originally ntood. 

No. 1. — This was the first slone which 1 disiiovered, ai 
is very faithfully exhiliitud in the ongmving fAcing page 52. I 
It is remarkable as lieiiig one L>f the Iwo which were fuuitd I 
slnmling. I think it more than probable that it has bi-en I 
IiliKied in tliat position hy the Indiana or others who have I 
latulj' visited the spot. It pn.>jecU8ix feet above the groimd, | 
in which it is probably planti:!'] about two foci. It is a Qui I 
slab, thirty-two inehi-s brood by eighlesn in tliickiicsB. The I 
back is notched, somclhing like that of the figtire which 1 1 
have already described as having been oblainod trom Momi>- I 
toiubita, and jihtnted in the plaza of Loon. 

No3. 2 AN» 3. — 'The first oF these I havi; already dtaoribed J 
on page 54. Its pojition is iudicattid by the corresponding I 
number ol' the plan, to the right of mound H. Near it wiw 1 
found a smaller and very rude figure, {No. S of Plan), whiub I 
is shown lying at the foot of Xo. 2 in the plate. It rrpreacnul 
a man much distorted in figure, with the. head bent dowit I 
upon one side, and rusting on tho Ictl shouldin-, thn smu f 
erosseii, and the tegs flexed together. The <leeign seems tal 
have \y^n sugge^teil by the natural »hape of the stone, wtuch. J 
is very little mndifiitil by art. 

Xo3. 4 A."{D o. — Athouj^h not th« tallest, No. 4 was 1 
luiaviest figure of tlie group; and, lis I huve already a 
(page 55), was raised to an eri.-ct position with great diffi 
ty. It is nine feet in height, and eight iii circumfcreucs i 
the largest part, cylindrical in funa, and encircled by r 
ornamented bands. Th<! singular niches in front I hiwi 
alreadv alluded to, hut have no conueption of their d^glbJ 
When found, iha preposterous fi^ro on the top was im|iep> J 
feet, but the various fragments wore aftcrwanls discownd,] 
and I was nbli^ perfectly to re3t*»re it, with the cxcopliou of ■ 
a portion of the face. It is jvprest'uted seated upon s h)W \ 
block, which has a ki.,d of U>-k. liU ili.-it of a cluir. IV \ 


top of the cylinder also shelves in from the circumference. 
Neither of these features can be exhibited in the engraving. 
It will be observed that the head forms a cross, a feature 
which occurs in some of the other monuments at the same 
place, and which recalls to mind the repeated declaration of 
the early Catholic priests, that the sign of the cross was of fre- 
quent occurrence amongst the sacred symbols of Yucatan 
and Central America. It is impossible to resist the convic- 
tion, that this unique little figure, with its monstrously dis- 
proportioned head, was symbolical in its design, and proba- 
bly ranked high amongst the objects of the ancient worship. 
More labor seems to have been expended upon its cylindrical 
pedestal than upon any of the others. The whole is sculp- 
tured from a single, solid block of basalt, of great hardness. 
The niches in front are cut with all the clearness and pre- 
cision of modern art. 

Near the figure just described was found another {No, 
5 of Plan), which is shown in the same Plate. It is however 
of an entirely dift'erent character ; and, as I have elsewhere 
said, represents a Silenus looking personage, with a large ab- 
domen, reclining in a seat, which has also a high back, as 
will be seen by reference to the engraving. The features of 
the face are large, and expressive of great complacency. The 
head seems to have been crowned in like manner with No. 1, 
but the conicixl projection has been broken off and lost. The 
hands rest upon the thighs ; but at the elbows, the arms are 
detached from the body. The point of view from which the 
sketch was taken does not permit this feature to be shown. 
Below the figure, and between the legs and the seat upon 
which it principally rests, the stone is artificially perforated. 
The whole is cut with great boldness, and has a striking 
(•fleet Our men called it "el Gordo," "the Fat," and it 
might pass for one of Hogarth's beer drinkers petrified. 

Nos. 6 AND 7. — This first figure (No. 6) is amongst the 
most striking of the whole group. It is twelve feet high. 


iculpturt?<l from it aiogle block, and abo repraaeataftfi 
seated, as before deficiboJ, upcm a liigh pedestal. In o 
with No. i, the stone, behiud the bund, is cut in tb« Son 
of a cross. Thi^ limbs are Iieavy, and tlie fiu% cqualljr v 
ederistiu witli ihiil of No. 5, l>ut grave and stnerv. 

Neur tLe mound, or ruined teocalli, B, and amoDgitt tbftl 
ilelirui al Lie b.t^>, I found llic sliilue represented in lUe saiuej 
Pint* witli Xo. I). It bjid been broken, and the lower [MUt^l 
ittclmUng iu pcdi-Mid, if it ever hiid ono, and part of the Irgk, f 
could not be found. The fuee had evidently soUbrcd froai 
intentional violenuv, aud the monstrous head and Juvni wbicb I 
surmounted the head of the figure had also been mueh in- 
jured. Thfl carving, in this instance, was ooinparatiToly I 
rough, aud the iigure produced upon me the imprca^on that I 
it was of higher antiquity than the others 

A little to the right of ihi.-:, on the stojic of the mound B, j 
about ooe-tliird of the way to its suniinit^ slood onothtT fig- J 
uru, soniewhnt smaller than the Ui^t, und half buried umirngst 1 
the stones of the mound. Itwa^ »io 6rinly tixcd, as to indtuwl 
me to believe that it occupieil its original position. Like t]|pa 
one last mentioned, it liad Muffired mueh from violence,.* 
the stone Iwing defective, from exposure. I could Qnljrl 
m^c out that it represented some animal springing upon J 
the head and back of a human figure, very twarly in UmI 
name mimner as represented in No. 10. I did not think iti 
worth sket^;hiiig. lis place is shown by the figure 8, in tlftJ 

No. 0. — While cutting a path around the inound indioet^dl 
by the loiter C, which waH covered in part by an imtaouel 
fallen tiwe, and overgrown with a tangled ma.*a of small xn^t, \ 
vinc&, an.i buslii.-s, I ciniu upon a fiat slab of stone, rceetn- 1 
bling a tomb-stone. It bad been broken, pro)jably al»ut in I 
the middle, and the uppiM- half, whieli is represented in the j 
accompanying engraving, alone remained. This fragment is I 
about live feet iu length, by three in greatest breadth. Th« j 

KosviiKsya or zapateko. 


sculpture, differing from aiiytliing olac founii iu the wlaud, 
is ia iiaa-reliel', ami represents the uppor half of n huriiaii 
Uguff, wilh an extraordinary head, which iippeara to bo sur- 
uiouDied by a kind of aku!l-cap or casc^ue. The face bean 

sUiiiit resemblance to humanity ; tht eyes are ri-'prcsented by 
two holi?ji deeply sunk in tlie stone, and the tongue secma to 
pwject from the month, and to rest n[wn h kind of flap whicli 
lianj^s upon the breast. It uppejiri'd to nic that tho design 
wa.^ Ill represwnt a mnak ; and the whole probably had n pro- 
(biuid aytnbolicul eignificanco. Manuel pronounced tliu to 


be one of the " frailes " and said that there was formerly an- 
other, in the attitude of prayer, in the vicinity of this. After 
much search, we discovered it, beneath the fallen tree of which 
I have spoken, but it was impossible to reach it. The tree 
was fiir too large to be cut away with the rude native axes ; 
I tried to burn it, but without success, and was obliged to 
leave the figure to be descril^d by some future traveller. 

Xo. 10. — This figure, which is now in the Museum of the 
Smithsonian Institution at Washington, formerly stood at 
the base of the mound A. It represents a man, R(|uatted 
uj)on his haunches, after the common manner of the Indians 
to this day, with oue hand at his side, and the other placed 
upon his breast. The head is held erect, and the forehead 
is encircled by a kind of ornamented fillet. The features are 
unlike those of any other of the figures found here ; indeed, 
each one had its individual characteristics, which could not 
be mistaken. Upon the back of this statue, its fore paws 
resting upon the shoulders, and its hind ones upon the hips, 
is the representation of some wild animal, grasping in its 
mouth the back part of the head of the figure. It seems in- 
tended to represent a tiger. 

No. 11. — In the vicinity of the mound D, were several 
small and comparatively rude figures. No. 11, shown in 
the accompanying engraving, is sculptured upon the convex 
side of a slab of stone, about five feet in length by eighteen 
inches broad. The figure in this instance also is represented 
seated. The outlines of the limbs are alone indicated. The 
head, however, is cut in rather high relief The expression 
of the face is serious; the forehead is bound by a band or 
fillet ; and is surmounted by a rudely represented head-dress. 
The hands rest upon the abdomen, and support what appears 
to be a human head, or the mask of a human foce. I 
brought this figure away, and it is also deposited in the ilu- 
seum of the Smithsonian Institution. 

No. 12. — This is also a very rude figure. It consists of a 


rough block of stone, slightly modified by art. and seems de- 
signed to represent a human body with the bend or mask of 
au uiiimul. The mouth ifl widely opened, exhibiting long 
tusks or teelh. The stone projeeta some distanee above tliiu 

bead, and lias up<:m each side a round, cup-shaped hole, 
amoolhly cut in the stone. The representation of a human 
bead surmounts the whole. 

No, 13, — This is u gutiods little figure, not more than 
three feet and a half high. The original sh«)>c of the stone 
is retained, and the ait expended upon it is but trifling. 
The engraving on the next page will sufficiently explain il« 


various ruutiirL-s. Tbe pii'iiicin of Na \i is indicau><] in the 
[i|;iti, but it ia so much detkced th:il ao engraving of it ia con- 

X(i. l.'i. — Amount tt« heaps of .-^liiiie ttufniuncliug I 
Iiioiind Bituati'd at the extreme k-ft of llie gryu]i, were Am 
« couple of st:itHi's, very, elaborali'ly c-arvfiL Tin*y wen e 
tricated with great ilifScuily, liut amply repaid thi; Inbur. 

Tlie one tlrst uncovered ia a coli«s;il K|ire^iitaiiQa. < 
wlint is here culled ii "tiger," seiitrd upon ibi tiauuulica. 
U vi-Ty boldly setilptured. The lie;id b Uirown furA-ttni, llkl 
mouth open, and tbts entire attitude mid cxprcMiun ibot d 
jgntit ferocity. Iiideed, as it stoud creut, Wncatli the ^loocnjn 


shadows of the great trees which surrounded it, I easily com- 
prehended the awe with which it probably was regarded by 
the people, in whose religious system it entered as the signifi- 
cant emblem of a power mightier than that of man. The 
base or pedestal, it will be observed, is ornamented in the 
usual manner. A considerable portion of it, two feet or 
more, is buried in the ground. The entire height is eight feet. 

No. 16. — This statue was discovered not for from No. 15, 
and is one of the most remarkable of the entire series. It 
is upwards of twelve feet in height, and represents a very 
well-proportioned figure, seated upon a kind of square throne, 
raised five feet from the ground. Above the head is a 
monstrous symbolical head, similar to those which surmount 
the statues in the island of Pensacola. Tlie resemblance to 
som(^ of the symbolical heads in the ancient Mexican rituals 
cannot l>e overlooked ; and I am inclined to the opinion that 
I shall be able to identify all these figures, as I believe I 
already have some of them, with the divinities of the Aztec 
Pantheon. The surmounting head is two feet eight inches 
broad, and is smootldy and sharply worked. 

The arms of this figure, as in the case of No. 5, are detached 
from the body for some distance above and below the elbows 
The face has suflfered from violence, and the statue itself is 
broken in the middle. 

Nos. 17 AND 18 of the plan are oblong stones, modified 
by art, and were unquestionably the altars whereon human 
sacrifices were made. There ls a hollow place sculptured 
nearly in the centre of each stone, which it is not unreasonable 
to suppose was designed to receive the blood of the victims. 

No. 19. — ^This is a basaltic rock deeply imbedded in the 
earth. The part which projects above the surface is some- 
what rounded, and is covered with ornamental figures, sculp- 
tured in the stone. Those which could be distinctly traced 
are given in the accompanying engraving. They are cut with 
great regularity to the depth of from one-fifth to one-third of 

VOL. II. 9 


uQ inch, by ab<>ut Imlf an inch in breadth. They do not 
appear to form any intelligible figure. 

The shape of this rock favore the suggesboQ that it was 
also used as a stone of sacrifice. 

Besides these, I discovered many fragmenta of other 
figures, of which, however, 1 could not make out the design. 
Some of these fragments wore found at the very edge of the 
e.xtinct crater of which I have spoken, and which, as will be 
seen by reference to the suiiplemcntary plan, is only about 
one hundred yards distant from this group of ruins. It is 
not improbable that, in their zeal t« destroy every trace of 
aboriginal idolatry, the early SpaniarJ.-s threw many of these 
monuments into the lake. None except those which, from 
their massivencss, are not easily broken or defaced, were 
found to be entire. All the others had been entirely broken 
or very much injured. Not a few have been removed at vari- 
ous times. Those which I have described as still existing in 
Granada were obtained here ; and it is said that some of the 
most elaborate have been taken by the Indians within a 
comparatively late period, and eitber buried or set up in 
secluded places in the forest. Manuel said that when he was 
there, about ten years ago, he noticed a number which were 
not now to be found, and which he was confident had been 
removed, or were so covered up ■ ith grass and bushes as 


not to be discovered. I myself am satisfied that other figures 
exist here, and at other points on the island, which might be 
found later in the dry season, when the grass and underbrush 
are withered, and may be destroyed by burning. When I speak 
of grass and un ^erbrush, it is not to be supposed that I mean 
anything like what in the United States would be meant by 
these terms. Around the large mound A, there were few 
trees, but the whole space was covered with bushes and grass; 
the stems of the latter were as thick as the little finger, and 
if extended would measure from ten to fifteen feet in length. 
When matted together they are like tangled ropes, and are 
almost impenetrable. The explorer has literally to cut his 
way inch by inch, if he would advance at all. 

The dry season had just commenced at the time of my 
visit, and the grass was only sufficiently withered to be twice 
as tough as when perfectly green, without being dry enough 
to burn. I offered rewards for the discovery of "piedras," 
but the men preferred to lounge in the shade to clearing 
away the undergrowth ; and although the Dr. and myself 
worked constantly, we discovered no new ones after the 
second day of our stay on the island. Manuel was certain 
that there were one or two small, but very elaborate ones, to 
the right of the great mound A. I commenced clearing there 
on the third day, but had not proceeded far, when I was start- 
led by the stroke of a rattlesnake, and the next instant dis- 
covered the convolutions of his body amongst the tangled 
grass. I only saw that he was a monster, as thick as my 
arm; and as he had the advantage in a fight amongst the 
grass, I beat a retreat, and resigned the grassy citadel to his 
snakeship. I was not particulary ambitious to resume my 
explorations in that direction, and the Indians, who entertain 
a profound dread of " cascabelas," utterly refused to go near 
the spot. 

There is a part of the island called "Punta Colorada," 
where the Indians told me there were some remains, and 


where, upon excavation, many ancient vases were to be dis- 
covered. Some of these, from their accounts, contained the 
bones and ashes of the dead. This point was on the exposed 
part of the island; and with the wind from the .north, and a 
rough, rocky coast, it was impossible to reach it by water. As 
to going over land, the thing was quite out of the question. 
High volcanic cliffs, walls of lava, and deep fissures and 
extinct craters intervened. 

In respect to the monuments discovered here, it will be 
observed that, although the style of wt)i'kmanship is the 
same throughout, each figure has a marked individuality, 
such as might pertain to divinities of distinct attributes and 
different positions in the ancient Pantheon. The material, 
in ev^ery case, is a black basalt, of great hardness, which, with 
the best of modern tools, can only be cut with difficulty. 
Like those described by Mr. Stephens, at Copan, these 
statues do not seem to have been originally placed upon the 
Teocallis, but erected around their bases. They are less in 
size than those of Copan, and are destitute of the heavy, and 
apparently incongruous mass of ornaments with which those 
are loaded. They are plain, simple, and severe ; and although 
not elaborately finished, are cut with considerable freedom 
and skill. There is no attempt at drapery in any of the 
figures ; they are what the dilettanti call nudities^ and afford 
strong corroborative proof of the existence of that primitive 
worship to which I have elsewhere alluded, as of common 
acceptance amongst the semi-civilized nations of America. 

There are reasons for believing that these monuments were 
erected by the people who occupied the country, at the time 
of the Conquest by the Spaniards, in 1522. I am not dis- 
posed to assign to them a much higher antiquity. Enter- 
taining this opinion, I reserve what further I have to say 
concerning them, as also concerning the others which fell 
under my notice in this country, for the chapters on the 
Aboriginal Inhabitants of Nicaragua. 








We spent three days on the island, going early to the 
monuments, and coming late. The weather was delightful ; 
and each night, when we returned to the boat, it was with an 
increased attachment to the place. We had now a broad, 
well-marked path from the shore to the ruins, and the idols 
were becoming familiar acquaintances. The men had given 


them names ; one they called, " Jorobado^^^ " the Hump- 
back;" another, " Ojos Grandest' " Big Eyes." 

At night, the picturesque groups of swarthy, half-naked 
men preparing their suppers around fires, beneath the trees, 
in the twilight gloom, or gathered together in busy conver- 
sation in the midst of the boat, after we had anchored off for 
the night, — the changing effects of the sun and moonlight 
upon the water, and the striking scenery around us, — the 
silence and primeval wilderness, — all contributed, apart from 
the strange monuments buried in the forest, to excite 
thoughts and leave impressions not likely to be effaced. 
Our stay passed like a dream, and when we departed, it was 
with a feeling akin to that which we experience in leaving 
old acquaintances and friends. 

We left on the morning of the fourth day. It was Satur- 
day, and I had promised most faithfully to be in Granada to 
attend a grand ball which was to be given in my honor on 
Sunday evening. The wind, which had been blowing a con- 
stant gale on the lake, during our stay at the island, had 
partially subsided, and we succeeded, in consequence, in 
reaching Los Corales about the middle of the afternoon. 
Here we stopped at a large island, strikingly picturesque 
where all were picturesque, covered with lemon, orange, and 
mamey trees, broad plantain walks, and fields of maize 
and melons, where one of the sailors averred there were 
other " piedras antiguas." The owner of the island was 
away, and the boys and women who were left knew nothing 
of the idols, except that they had been buried, — where, they 
could not tell. I asked the mistress if I might carry ofl* 
some of the fine fruit which loaded down the trees. " Como 
noT^ why not? was the answer — a common reply in 
Central America, which signifies the fullest assent. The 
marineros did not take the trouble of asking, but helped 
themselves ad libitum, as a matter of course. I inquired of 
Juan, why he did not ask permission to take the fruit, if he 


desired it; he looked at me in surprise, and made no answer. 
He would as soon have thought of asking for permission to 
breath the air, or use the water around the island. 

We had another gorgeous sunset amongst the Corales, — 
those fairy islets, the memory of which seems to me like that 
of a beautiful dream, a vision of the "Isles of the Blest," — 
and at nine o'clock ran under the lee of the old castle, and 
landed again on the beach of Granada. Here we found an- 
other American, Dr. Clark 5f Costa Eica, who, wearied of that 
little state, had come to Nicaragua in order that he might see 
more of his countrymen, and relieve the monotony of Cen- 
tral American life. We deposited the spoils which we had 
brought from the island in the house of Monsieur T., a polite 
and intelligent but very eccentric Frenchman, who lived in 
a little house on the shore of the lake, and then hastened to 
our old quarters in the city. The town was in a great up- 
roar ; it was the anniversary festival of some pet saint ; all 
the bells were clattering, and the plaza was spluttering with 
bombas, of which every boy in town had a supply, to be let 
off on his individual account. They had also " serpientes," 
serpents, which, when fired, started off erratically, darting 
from side to side, amongst people's legs, and in at the doors 
and windows, carrying confiision everywhere, particularly 
amongst the women, who retreated screaming in every direc- 
tion, to the great entertainment of the spectators, and amidst 
the shouts of the boys and loafers in the streets. 

The ball "came off" in the house of Madame B., a French 
lady, whose grand sala was one of the largest in the city, 
and therefore selected for the "obsequio." I went at nine 
o'clock, and was received with a flourish of trumpets, by a file 
of soldiers stationed at the arched portal. The sala was very 
tastefully ornamented and lighted. It was already full ; and 
not to be behind the Leoucses in their demonstrations of respect 
for theUnited States, the assemblage all rose upon my en- 
trance ; and the Prefect, who introduced me, would have had 


a " viva" or two {d la Hone at the Park Theatre, on a certain 
memorable occasion), had I not besought him " por el amor de 
Dios" to refrain. The masculine portion of the assemblage was 
dressed in what was meant to be full European costume, 
but the styles of coats and cravats ran through every mode of 
the last ten years. The females made a better appearance, 
but none of them displayed more style in respect of dress, 
than ** Tobillos Gruesos " and the other female attaches of 
Senor Serrate's Company of Funambulos, who were all 
present, including the old lady who swallowed the sword, 
the girl who had turned somersets, and the "eccentric clown 
Simon." The elite of Granada had doubtless heard how the 
fashionables of our cities are accustomed to receive squalling 
women, pirouetting Cyprians, and hirsute monsters of the 
masculine gender, remarkable for soiled linen, and redolent 
of gin, which swarm from Europe like locusts upon our 
shores, and were also anxious to evince their appreciation of 
art, in their attentions to "artistes." I flatter myself that 
the " Joveua Catalina" and " Kl Ministro" were the bright 
particular stars of the evening ; I did the gravity, and she 
the dancing.* 

At eleven o'clock supper was announced in the "comedor," 
or dining room, which was spread more after the fistshion of 
home than anything I had seen since leaving the United 

' Since the above was written, I have received the little " Gaceta de 
Costa Rica," announcing the complete breaking up of Senor Serrat«''s 
Company of Funambulos, in consequence of the deatli of "Tobillci-! 
Gruesos," and of the girl who turned somersets. The first died of totanu?, 
or lockjaw, from a slight wound received by the unlucky turning of a 
knife used in some of her feats of dexterity ; and the Volteadoraj a mar- 
tyr to her profession, broke her neck in an attempt to eclipse the ** Eccen- 
tric Clown Simon." I now feel some compunctions of conscience for my 
allusions to the Jovena's ankles — they were really not so very large — and 
I mean to make amends, by thinking of her hereafter, not as *' Tobillos 
Gmesos," buias "La hermosissima Jovena Catalina." 


States. The champagne, however, seemed most popular, 
and the applause with which favorite dances were received, 
after our return to the ball room, it is barely possible had some 
connection with this circumstance. The enthusiasm was at its 
height, when "Tobillos Gruesos" and her sister danced "El 
Bolero," and I availed myself of the opportunity to leave, 
which I did unobserved. It was three o'clock when the ball 
broke up, at which time I was tortured out of my slumbers 
by the fearful wailing of half a dozen violins, played by 
unsteady hands, and by courtesy called a serenade. 

On the afternoon of the day following the ball, in company 
with Dr. Clark, I set out for the Department Meridional, the 
capital of which is the city of Eivas or Nicaragua. It will 
be remembered that this was the seat of Somoza's insurrection. 
I was desirous of visiting it, not less because it was reported 
to be one of the richest and most fertile portions of the State, 
than because here the attention of the world had been for 
centuries directed, as the most feasible point where the lake 
could be connected with the Pacific, and the grand project of 
water communication between the two great oceans realized. 
Here also was the seat of a Mexican colony, in ancient times, 
where the great cazique, Niquira, had his court ; and upon 
the island of Ometepec, near by, the lineal descendants of 
these Indians, and many monuments of their labor and skill, 
still existed. 

We proposed to go but eight leagues that afternoon, to the 
estate of a propietario, to whose kindness we were com- 
mended. When we started the sky was clear and serene, 
and there was every prospect of a fine evening. We accord- 
ingly jogged along at our ease. Our path lay to the right of 
the Volcano of Momobacho, over fields of volcanic breccia, 
and amongst the high, conical hills of scoriae, bare of trees, 
but covered with grass, which form so striking features in 
the scenery back of Granada. Around these we found large 
patches of cleared land, now overgrown with rank weeds, 

VOL. II. 10 


which were anciently indigo and maize estates, but had been 
abandoned in consequence of the internal commotions of the 
country. Beyond these, at about three leagues from Gra- 
nada, we came to a steep hUl, where the narrow road, shut in 
by high banks, was nothing more than a thick bed of mire, 
mixed with large, loose stones, amongst which our horses 
floundered fearfully. Midway to the summit, where the hill 
forms a kind of shelf, is a copious spring, with a musical 
Indian name, that has escaped my memory. Here were a 
number of the people of the Indian pueblo of Diriomo, 
returning with the proceeds of their marketing from Granada. 
They were listening with great attention to a white woman, 
evidently insane, whose slight form, delicate hands, and pale 
face, half covered with her long, beautiful hair, contrasted 
strongly with their swarthy lineaments and massive limbs. 
She addressed us vehemently but unintelligibly, as we 
approached. I turned inquiringly to one of the Indians ; 
he touched his finger to his forehead and said, " Pobrecita, 
estontaT — "poor thing, she's crazy." I asked the man if 
they would leave her there ? " Oh no," he replied, " we 
must take care of her, pobrecita !" And as we slowly toiled 
up the hill, I looked back, and saw this rude Indian tenderly 
leading the poor girl by the hand, as one would lead a child, 
lifting her carefully over the bad places, and carrying her 
little bundle on the top of his own heavy load. 

Upon one side of the road, just at the summit of the hill, we 
came upon a figure, something like those which we had dis- 
covered at the island of Zapatero. It seemed to have been 
more delicately carved than any of those, but was now too 
much injured to enable us to make out its design. It was 
standing erect, and the bushes around it were all cut away. 
I afterwards learned that it had been brought to its present 
position and set up by the Indians of Diriomo, as a bounda- 
ry mark between their lands and those belonging to another 


The ground now became undulating ; we came frequently 
where plantain and corn fields, and occasionally snug cane 
huts, could be discovered at the ends of little vistas, and in 
shadowy dells. Broad paths also diverged here and there 
fix>m the main road, to the numerous Indian towns which 
are situated between the volcano and Masava. The volcano 
upon this side is not covered with trees, as towards Grana- 
da, and amongst the struggling verdure are broad, black 
strips of lava, and red ridges of scorisD and breccia. Upon 
this side also the walls of the crater have been broken down, 
and expose a fearfully rugged orifice like an inverted cone, 
extending more than half way to the base of the mountain. 
Within this it is said there is now a small lake, and another 
in a smaller vent, upon one side of the great crater, at the 
top of the mountain. Around the latter, it is added, there 
are certain varieties of strange birds, which are not to be 
found elsewhere in the State, — stories which the naturalist 
would be more anxious to verify than the antiquarian. 

It is a singular fact that, under the lee of this volcano 
hardly a day in the year passes, except towards the middle 
of the dry season, without rain. This is due to the conden- 
sation of the vapors in the cooler atmosphere at the summit 
of the volcano, and which the prevailing winds drive over 
to the south-west. As a consequence, vegetation is very rank 
here, and the forests are dense and tangled. We got the full 
benefit of one of these volcanic showers. It came upon us 
with hardly a moment's warning. At one instant we were 
riding in the clear sunlight, and the next were enveloped in 
clouds, and drenched with rain, which soon made the roads 
so slippery that we could not proceed faster than a walk. 
We rode on for half an hour, when the rain relaxed, and the 
clouds lifted a little, but only to reveal the cheerless pros- 
pect of a wet and stormy night. The change of tempera- 
ture in this short interval was also considerable, and I felt 
chilled and uncomfortable. We held a council, and deter- 


mined to take up our quarters at the first house or hut we 
might reach. We soon discovered the buildings of a cattle 
estate to the left of the " camino real," and rode up to them. 
There were two mud houses, and an immense shed, roofed 
with tiles. Here we found a dozen vaqueros, and we made 
the usual inquiry, if we could " make their house a posada," 
and, for the second time in the country, were met with inci- 
vility. The women of one of the houses had the calentura, 
and there was no room in the other. There was the shed, 
they added : we might go there. I rode up to it and glanced 
under. The sides were all open, and there were a hundred 
or two cows and calves beneath, which had trampled the 
entire floor into a sickening mass of black mire. We felt 
indignant, and aftier intimating to the black vagabonds who 
stood scowling at us, that they were " hombres sin verguen- 
za," men without shame, which in Nicaragua is the most 
opprobious thing that can be said, we rode oflF in great wrath. 
Ben, who distrusted the rascals, had employed the time in 
recapping his pistols by way of showing them that he should 
be prepared to meet their attentions, should they take into 
their heads to favor us with any in the woods. I believe he 
privately told the spokesman, who seemed surliest of all, 
that he should delight to have a crack at him. 

It now came on to rain again harder than before, and night 
settled around us, black and cheerless. The ground was so 
slippery that the horses, even when walking, could hardly 
keep their feet. None except the Dr. had ever been over 
the road, and in the darkness he was not certain that we 
were pursuing the right path. We rode on, nevertheless, 
gloomily enough, for an hour or two, when we discovered a 
light at a little distance from the road, in what appeared to 
be a cleared field. We hastened to it, and found a little col- 
lection of Indian huts, in which the inmates hospitably in- 
vited us to enter. Their quarters were, however, far from 
inviting, and as we were now wet through, and it was only 


two leagues further to the hacienda where we had proposed 
to stop, we concluded it was as well to suffer for a " horse as 
for a colt," and, engaging one of the men to guide us, we 
pushed on. He took us by the best beaten road, through 
the large Indian town of Nandyme, of which we could see 
nothing except long rows of lights shining from the open 
doorways. We would have stopped with the cura, but he 
had gone to Leon, and so we kept to our original purpose. 
Beyond Nandyme the ground was clayey, and our horses 
seemed every moment on the verge of falling. It was a pain- 
ful ride, and M., who had a fever coming on, was comically 
nervous, and finally dismounted and swore he wouldn't ride a 
foot further. We however got him on his horse once more, 
and proceeded. We were an hour and a half in going a single 
league. Finally we saw the light of Jesus Maria's house ; 
our poor horses at once took courage, and carried us to his 
door at a round pace. A dozen mozos were lounging in the 
corridor, whom we told to take care of our horses, and then in- 
quired for the proprietor. But he did not reside here now ; 
he had gone off with his family, and the establishment was in 
the hands of his mayordomo. We requested the men to call 
this person, but they declined, because he was at his prayers, 
and not to be disturbed. This was a small consideration 
with us ; we pushed open the door and entered the sala. At 
one end of the room, suspended above an elevated shelf, 
was a picture of the Virgin, and on the shelf itself two 
miserable tallow candles, just enabling the picture to be seen. 
In front, in the middle of the room, was a long bench, and 
kneeling at this, with their faces directed to the picture, were 
the mayordomo and his family. They did not look round 
when we entered, but continued their devotions, which con- 
sisted in the alternate recitation of a prayer in rhyme, ut- 
tered in a rapid, monotonous voice. At the end of each 
prayer all joined in a kind of refrain, or chorus, and dropped 
a bead on their rosaries. We took off our hats, and stood 


still, waiting for the end. Happily the prayers were short; 
they had already been some time at them, and we had not 
long to wait. We had anticipated a cordial welcome, and 
this had kept up our spirits through our uncomfortable ride. 
But the mayordomo did not seem to be at all delighted ; on 
the contrary, he was positively cool, and his sposa, after 
eying us askance for a moment, tossed herself out of the 
room, and slanmied the door after her. This conduct deter- 
mined our course, and resolving to carry things with a high 
hand, we took unceremonious possession. I ordered Ben to 
bring in our saddles and place them in the sala, and to spread 
out the wet saddle-cloths on the best chairs he could find, 
while we tumbled into the hammocks, and bade the mayor- 
domo authoritatively to bring us some chocolate. His eyes 
were big with astonishment, and he mechanically gave the 
corresponding order. The chocolate was brought and put 
on the table. We took our seats, but the Dr. was belligerent, 
and bringing his fist down on the " mesa," turned to the 
mayordomo and ejaculated fiercely, ^^pan! su perrol" — 
^^ bread! you dogl" Bread came in a twinkling. "Bien! 
earner — "Good! meatP'' and the meat came. I laughed 
outright ; even M., who had been as grave and silent as an 
owl, could not resist a smile, and Ben was ecstatic. 

After supper was over, we began to look out for beds. 
The Dr. and M. concluded to take the two hammocks, Ben the 
table, and then the Dr., turning to the mayordomo, told him 
he wanted the best bed in the house for me. The surlv host 
opened a door leading into a little, dirty room, resembling a 
dog kennel, in which was a naked, hide bed, and said I might 
have that. The Dr., I believe, meditated an assault on the 
fellow, but I interfered, and took possession of the den. I 
was wet and tired, and cared little for the elegance of my 
accommodations. I slept soundly, with the exception of 
being once roused by the crowing of a game cock, perched 
on the head-board of my bed. I took him by the legs, cut 


the cord by which he was tied, and threw him out of the 
window. He squalled terribly, and I was strongly tempted 
to give his neck a twist, but thought better of it. 

We were up eariy in the morning, anxious to get away 
firom this inhospitable place. We made the mayordomo 
])roduce his bill in writing, with all the items, disputed half 
of them, quarrelled ^"ith him about a sixpence, and finally 
went ofl^ assuring him, as we had the vaqueros before, that 
he was " a man without shame." 

Beyond this place the country was generally flat, and cov- 
ered with calabash trees, overgrown with parasitic plants, 
which almost concealed the limbs and verdure of the trees 
themselves. The places thus covered, as I have already 
said, are called ^^jicoralesf^ and as the trees are usually scat- 
tered pretty widely apart, they aflbrd very good pasturage 
for cattle. Between the various "jicorales" there were 
swells of land covered with the ordinary forest trees. At 
the distance of two leagues from our inhospitable quarters of 
the night, we came to a singular square structure open at the 
sides, and covered with a tile roof. This we found had been 
erected by the " arrieros," or muleteeres, as a convenient 
lodging place, in their journeys between Nicaragua and Gra- 
nada. The neighboring " jicoral," for most of the year, af- 
forded grass for their animals ; and as for themselves, a cup 
of tiste sufficed. They had only to swing their hammocks 
between the posts of the shed, light their cigars, and they 
were " put up," at a very cheap rate. At ten o'clock we 
reached the cattle estate of " Ochomogo," situated upon a 
broad stream of the same name, and the largest which we 
had seen in Nicaragua. The place was a wild one, and 
surrounded by a dense forest of large trees. It had once 
been an indigo estate, and the vats in which the indigo had 
been separated still remained, on the slope between the house 
and the stream. We were very kindly received, and break- 
fiist was prepared for us with the greatest promptitude. The 


mistress of the house was an old lady of great good nataie, 
who, learning we were from El Norte, asked us many curious 
questions about our country, and was particularly anxious 
to know about a " Capitan Esmith" (Smith), an American 
sea-captain whom she had once seen in San Juan, many 
year ago, and before its seizure by the English. We told 
her we did not know the " Capitan," which surprised her 
greatly, because Captain Smith was a man very enlightened 
" muy ilxistrado^^^ and a big fellow besides. Poor old lady, 
she little imagined the extent of " El Norte," and had no 
conception of the number of **Capitans Esmith" to be found 
there. She had two well-dressed and really handsome 
daughters, who brought us chocolate in the daintiest manner, 
which quite won our hearts by reason of its contrast to that 
of the mayordorao near Nandyme. The Dr. having pre- 
scribed for a sick daughter-in-law, the mistress at Ochomogo 
declined any payment for our breakfast, — not wholly on ac- 
count of the prescription probably, for I have no doubt she 
meant it when she said, " God forbid that I should take 
money of the Americans ! are they not paisanos, country- 
men ?" 

We forded the Rio Ochomogo, but had not proceeded far 
on our way before it commenced raining again, speedily 
making the roads so slippery that we could not advance 
faster that a walk. This was vexatious, but not to be avoid- 
ed ; so we protected ourselves as we best could under our 
blankets and ponchos, and received the peltings without 
complaint. Three hours' ride in a forest where the trees 
were larger than any I had yet seen, brought us to an open 
space, resembling a back-woods clearing in our own country. 
Upon a knoll in the midst stood the house belonging to the 
cattle estate of the family of Chomorro of Granada, some of 
the younger members of which were there on a visit. They 
pressed us to stop until the next day, but the house was 
small and already crowded, and we were loth to incommode 


the inmates. Besides, M.'s fever was increasing, and I was 
anxious to get him to some comfortable place, where he 
could receive proper attentions, while he was yet able to 
travel. We had a long and dreary ride, until the middle of 
the afternoon, relieved only by the incident of Ben killing 
a boa constrictor with his sword, when we reached another 
large and fine stream called Gil Gonzalez, after the discov- 
erer of the country. It is, I believe, the only natural feature 
of Nicaragua which commemorates the name of any of its 
conquerors. Beyond the Rio Gil Gonzalez, we came to open, 
cultivated fields, " /it/^rto" or gardens, separated by hedge 
rows, along which were planted papaya trees, now loaded 
with golden fruit. As we advanced, the evidences of indus- 
try and thrift became more and more abundant, and passing 
for a league through broad and luxuriant fields, we at last 
came to the Indian pueblo of Obraje, the place where Somo- 
za had received his first check by the troops of the govern- 
ment It was a large, straggling town, a town of gardens, 
and, judging from the accounts of the chroniclers, built very 
much afl«r the plan of the aboriginal towns, before the Con- 
quest. The adobe buildings around the plaza were scarred 
by shot ; but everything looked so peaceful now that I could 
hardly believe war and bloodshed had ever disturbed its 

The Obraje is one of half a dozen towns, situated within a 
radius of two leagues around the central city of Rivas or 
Nicaragua, and which are, to all intents and purposes, parts 
of it. Within this area, therefore, there is a larger popula- 
tion than in any equal extent of the State. At a distance 
from the centres of political operations, Rivas and its depen- 
dencies have escaped the more obvious evils of the civil 
commotions to which the country has been subject. Its 
prosperity has nevertheless been retarded, and its wealth 
diminished, as the State has declined. Yet, in point of cul- 
tivation and general thrift, it still retains its superiority. Of 

VOL. n. 11 


this we had abundant evidences in our ride of a league, from 
the Obraje to Rivas. The lands were better cleared and 
worked, and the houses larger and more comfortable than 
any we had yet seen. To the right was a range of hills, not 
rocky, volcanic elevations, but smooth, rolling hills, capable 
of culture to their summits ; and between them and the lake 
intervened a wide plain, two or three leagues broad, with 
little swells of ground, upon which the houses of the people 
were usuallj^ built. This plain is wonderfully fertile, and 
suflfering less from drought in the dry season, is probably 
capable of being made more productive than that of Leon ; 
but its greater moisture and comparative lowness render its 
climate less salubrious. As we rode along, in admiration of 
the lavish profusion of nature, we, for the first time since we 
left the San Juan river, saw the toucan and one or two other 
varieties of new and brilliant birds. They were very tamey 
and evidently felt at home amongst the cacao groves. 

The rain had ceased, and the contrast which this part of 
our ride bore to that of the morning, exhilarated me to 
the highest degree, and perhaps caused it to make a deeper 
impression than it would have done under other circum- 
stances. It was late in the afternoon, when, crossing a little 
New Englandish stream, the Dr. pointed to a large, fine 
house, sweetly seated in the edge of a cacao plantation, as 
that of SeSor Hurtado, one of the Senators of the State, and 
at whose urgent invitation I was now in this part of the 
Republic The building was elevated, and a broad corridor 
ran along its entire front, upon which Senor Hurtado and 
his family were seated, in luxurious enjoyment of the evening 
breeze. We were recognized, notwithstanding we were 
disguised by ponchos and stuccoed with mud, long before 
we reached the hoase, and the master came down the road 
to welcome us. Need I add that we were received with 
unbounded hospitality, and had every want anticipated, and 
every wish attended to, during our stay ? 


Sefior Hurtado is one of the largest proprietors in the 
Department, and, with his wife and family, might easily be 
taken for Americans. Tliey were now living in what may 
be called the suburbs of the town; their city residence 
having been destroyed, together with a large amount of 
property, by Somoza, during his temporary ascendancy. 
Their present dwelling had also been visited, and the marks 
of machetas and bullets were visible on the doors and 
shatters. It had, however, escaped pillage, in consequence 
of the popularity of its owner amongst all classes of the 
people of the Department. Connected with the establish- 
ment is a large and exceedingly well-kept cacao plantation. 
Through the middle runs the small stream I have mentioned, 
crossed by unique little bridges, and here and there forming 
miniature lakes. The mazy walks were wide and clean, and 
so eflFectually roofed in by the broad tops of the cacao-madre, 
that one might almost imagine himself within the spacious 
aisles of some grand natural temple. 

The morning following, we were waited upon by Don 
Fruto Chamorro, Prefect of the Department, and the officers 
of the garrison. Sefior Hurtado gave me a fine horse, to 
relieve my wearied one, and I accompanied them to the 
town. I was much disappointed in its appearance. It looked 
dilapidated, having suflFered much from earthquakes, to 
which it is proverbially subject. The walls of almost every 
building were split or thrown from the perpendicular from 
this cause, and the fa9ades of two or three little churches, 
which we passed, were rent from top to bottom, and seemed 
just ready ready to tumble down. As we approached the 
grand plaza or centre of the town, we began to see the 
results of the recent troubles. The doors and windows of 
the buildings were full of bullet-holes, and the walls had 
been literally scarified by shot. There must have been a 
prodigious amount of random firing, first and last. A number 
of buildings in the vicinity of the plaza had been burnt, or par* 


tially torn down, and amongst them were the ruins of the resi- 
dence of our host, which had been distinguished for its size 
and superior elegance. Don Fruto^who, by the way, had in 
person captured the robber chieftain,) explained to me how 
the latter succeeded in gaining control of the place, and 
gave me a little insight into the mode of fighting practised 
in Central America. To get possession of the principal 
plaza, and to hold it, is esteemed the primary object of every 
assault. The garrison always barricades itself there, leaving 
the rest of the town unprotected ; and in this vicinity the 
fighting almost invariably takes place. Accordingly, at the 
outbreak of the insurrection, the little garrison, joined by the 
principal citizens, fortified themselves in the plaza, and 
waited for Somoza to come on. Of course he took his time, 
and when quite ready, with his usual daring, attempted to 
carry the plaza by a coup de main. He could not, however, 
bring his men to charge the barricades in face of the veterans, 
whose shot swept the streets like hail. He nevertheless 
persisted in the attempt, but with uniform bad success. 
Finally he was compelled to make his advances in the usual 
manner. He commenced cutting through the houses, upon 
two sides at the same time, advancing from one to the other 
as fast as the walls could be broken through. The garrison, 
detecting the movement, advanced in the same way to meet 
him, instead of waiting to be overwhelmed by numbers in 
the plaza. The " sappers and miners," if they can be so 
called, encountered each other in the interiors of the aban- 
doned houses, and in their courtyards; and at the outset, in 
the bloody hand-to-hand contests which ensued, the superior 
discipline of the little garrison prevailed. Somoza, at this 
critical moment, set fire to the buildings with his own hands, 
and leaving a portion of his men in the houses, made a simul- 
taneous assault upon all the barricades. The garrison, 
having so many points to defend, enveloped in flame and 
smoke, and already much reduced, was overwhelmed by 


numbers. In the excitement of the moment, horrible excesses 
were committed, and neither age nor sex was spared. To 
these excesses, which shocked and alarmed the whole State, 
the speedy downfall of Somossa and his faction is, in great 
part, to be ascribed. 

Upon one side of the plaza, which was now fitted up for 
" un Juego de los Toros^^^ or a bull-baiting, were the founda- 
tion walls and part of the superstructure of a large stone 
church. It had been plann'ed on a grand scale, and was 
commenced and carried to its present elevation many years 
ago ; but a severe earthquake occurring, which cracked and 
otherwise injured the unfinished walls, its construction was 
suspended, and has never been resumed. The interior is, I 
believe, now used as a burial place; and a little, low, but 
compact building at its side is the parochial church. But 
even this has suflTered from the earthquakes. In 1844 a 
series of shocks occurred, extending through three days. 
The people abandoned their dwellings, and lived in the 
open air. The shocks were so severe, that it was almost im- 
possible to stand erect, or even to stand at all, without cling- 
ing to trees or other fixed objects for support. On the isth- 
mus, below Nicaragua, and in the direction of the volcano 
of Orosi, which on this occasion was unusually active, the 
earth opened in various places, and many of the more fearful 
results of these convulsions were witnessed by the affrighted 

From the plaza, the view of the volcanoes of Ometepec and 
Madeira, standing in the lake, is exceedingly fine. The reg- 
ularity of the cone of the former seems more striking than 
when it is viewed from the opposite direction. I have no 
question that it approaches nearer the perfect cone in shape, 
than any other mountain on the continent, not to say in 
the world. 

Upon returning to Sefior Hurtado's, we found Mr. Woeni- 
ger, a gentlemen of German descent, but a citizen of the 


United States, who had resided for twelve or fourteen years 
in the country. He was intelligent and communicative, and 
gave me a great deal of information about this section of the 
State, but particularly concerning the island of Ometepec, on 
which he had resided for a number of years. He had early 
cleared an estate there, and commenced the cultivation of 
cotton, relying upon Indian labor. Things went on very 
well for some time, and he had imported machinery for 
cleansing the cotton and manufacturing it, when the Indians, 
perhaps excited by envious or evil-minded persons, grew 
idle and unmanageable. And one day, during his absence, a 
drunken party of them entered his house, violated and mur- 
dered his wife, (daughter of a professor in one of the col- 
leges of Pennsylvania,) and then set fire to the building. 
Some of the miscreants were taken, identified, and shot. Mr. 
W., notwithstanding this terrible blow, persevered in his en- 
terprise, but with bad success, and was himself finally at- 
tacked by a number of his own laborers. He killed one or 
two, and escaped, abandoning his property on the island, 
and purchasing a cacao estate on the main-land, at a little 
place, in the vicinity of Rivas, called Potosi, where he now 
resided. He represented a large part of the island as being 
fertile, and well adapted to the cultivation of cotton, but not 
more so than almost any other portion of the republic. 
With a proper organization, and the ability of compelling 
the natives to comply with their contracts, he believed 
Nicaragua could compete with any portion of the world in 
the production of this staple, and supply a better article at 
less price in the markets of England, than the United States 
itself. This opinion I found was entertained by many other 
intelligent foreigners, resident in the country, and fully ac- 
quainted with the subject. It is this fact, amongst other 
things, and in connection with the unsuccessful efforts of 
England to grow cotton in her colonies, in Jamaica, the An- 
tilles, in Guiana, and India, that gives especial significance to 


^DglUli pretensions on the Mow^uito shore, whith is pmbully 
\e finest oolton growing country of die world. It is a fuct also, 
irbich should not be lost sight of by the Sonthcrn States of 
Kpui' Confederacy, when we shall be called upon to Like a 
rational eland, on the questiona which have been raised by 
unscrupuloua policy of Great Britain in Central and 
lOUth America. 

Mr. Woeniger gave me eome iuformatton concerning the 
lonuments of aboriginal art found on the island. In the 
Xirls beet known there had formerly been many idols re- 
lembling those found at Zopatero, hut tUey had either been 
wken up or buried. A group was said to exist at a secluded 

ace, near llie foot of the volcano of Madeira, but he had 
iver e4en ihem. The ancient cemeteries are the most 
narkahle remains of the aborigines. They generally co- 
upon Eome dry, elevated place, and are distinguisli- 
I by an enclosure of flat, rough stones, set in the ground, 
I projecting a few inches above the surface. Within the 
Uiaa indicated are found, upon examinatiou, many 
I contaiaing the bouea and ashes of the dead, and a 
iat variety of ornaments of stone and melal. Little gold 
IoIe, well worked, articles of copper, and terra cotta figures, 
I sometimes found. The vases containing the 
I bones and ashes are always of one shape, as repre- 


sentcd in the foregoing cuts. It will be seen at once, 
that the model is that of the human skull. In some of those 
in which the unburned bones were placed, after the removal 
of the flesh, (a common practice among the American In- 
dians,) the skull closed the orifice or mouth. Other articles 
of potterj, some in the form of animals and of fruits and 
shell?, are also found buried both in the cemetries and elae- 
wheia These are sometimes elaborately painted, with bril- 
liant and enduring colors. A couple of them are represented 

in the accompanying engraving. Amongst the articles of 
metal obtained on the island, and presented to me by Mr. 
Woenigcr, is a copper head or mask of a tiger, which is not 
unartistic, and displays no insignificant degree of spirit. 

The golden idob, are no doubt identical with those which 
the chronicler describes as " about a span long," and of 
which the great Cazique Niquira gave Gil Gonzales, upon 
hia solicitation, not less than "one thousand." One had been 
found just previous to our arrival, which weighed twenty- 
four ounces, and which had been purchased by a merchant 
for an equal number of doubloons, and sent as a remittance 
to Jamaica. I left a standing order with Seflor Hurtado to 
secure the next one which should be found for me, at any 
cost. But up to this time, I cannot learn that any additional 
ones have been discovered. Amongst the other curious 


relics which I obtained there, waa a little figure of a frog, 
carved in a grej stone, resembling verd antique. It is pre- 
sented of full size in the subjoined engraving. The holes near 
the fore feet were doubtless designed to receive the string, 

by which it was probably suspended as an amulet from the 
neck of its ancient owner. This was found in the Depuit- 
ment of Guanacaste, near the Gulf of Nicoya. 

I had intended to visit Ometepec ; and as, upon our arri- 

val, there seemed to be a prospect that M,, after a little 
repose, would be able to go with us, Seiior Hurtado had 
ordered one of his boats, with a full complement of men, to 
be in reudiness, on the second morning, to take us over, 
vol- II. 12 


The Prefect had also sent orders to the subordinate offi- 
cers on the island to render us every service in their power. 
But in the meantime M. had become much worse, and during 
the night was almost delirious with fever, requiring the 
constant attendance of the doctor. I was consequently 
obliged to relinquish my visit ; but, nevertheless, rode down 
to the lake with the Prefect and a party of the citizens. 
The distance is upwards of a league to San Jorge, which 
stands a little back from the lake, upon a dry, sandy swell 
of ground. It is finely situated, and the country intervening 
between the two towns is of surpassing beauty and fertility, 
and covered with cacao plantations, and " huertas," of the 
most luxuriant productiveness. It was at San Jorge that 
the final conflict with Somoza took place, and the buildings 
around the plaza bore the usual marks of shot ; and it was here 
that the French officer who had been so polite to us at San 
Carlos, but who had foolishly joined Somoza for the sake of 
" beauty and booty," was killed. One of the officers pointed 
out a little depression in the surface of the ground ; it was 
his grave; they had buried him where he fell. 

A few minutes* ride from San Jorge, along one of the 
numerous paths worn by the aguadoras, brought us to the 
lake. The shore is high and bluffj and there is only a 
narrow strip of sandy beach between it and the waters. 
Here were numerous bongos and canoes drawn up on the 
sand, parties of marineros cooking their breakfasts, men 
watering their horses in the sur^ half naked women, sur- 
rounded by troops of children, busily engaged in washing, 
water-carriers filling and balancing their jars — all the move- 
ment and picturesque life which had so deeply impressed me 
upon my first landing on the beach of Granada. The wind 
blew strongly, and the waves swept in with a force which 
surprised me. The rollers outside were like those of the 
ocean, and a canoe just then coming in was swamped the 
moment it reached them, and was only prevented from being 


overset and stove on the shore, by the crew, who had pre- 
viously thrown themselves overboard, and steadied it by 
clinging to its sides. It would have been impossible for us 
to have got outside, even if we had been in readiness to go 
to the island. I found that our patron and crew were to have 
been the same who had taken us to Pensacola, and had 
vexed us so prodigiously by their laziness. They saluted 
me with the greatest femiliarity, and seemed to be much 
disappointed when Seflor Hurtado told them they would not 
be wanted. They had evidently counted on a large supply of 
aguardiente, and on being gloriously drunk for at least a 
week. I gave them a few reals wherewith to drink my 
health, for which they invoked the blessing of all the 
saints on my head. 

The return ride was a rapid one, and the young officers 
who accompanied us amused themselves greatly by racing 
their horses. Their mode of doing this is very diflFerent from 
ours, and a trifle more dangerous. The rivals place them- 
selves side by side, and join hands, starting off at a given 
signal. The one whose greater speed enables him to drag 
the other from his horse, wins ; and if the race is in earnest, 
the least the beaten party can expect to get off with is a 
tumble in the sand, with a chance of a broken head. There 
are many fine horsemen in Central America ; indeed, a good 
horse, and the ability to ride him well, are the two things 
which the " fast fellows" of that country most do covet, and 
in the possession and display of which they take most pride. 
For my sole gratification, I presume, one of the officers vol- 
unteered some exhibitions of his skill. He requested me to 
drop my whip a little in advance ; I did so, and as he dashed 
past, at the full speed of his horse, he bent down gracefully 
and picked it up, — a feat which those who do not think dif- 
ficult had better attempt. He also borrowed a lance from 
an Indian whom we met, and showed me the manner in 
which it is handled by those who fully understood its use. 



I was amazed ill hU dexUirity, and not less so al the skill 
with which one of his compaiiioDs, using only his sword, 
warded off the blows ainied al him with the bluut cod. It 
occurred to me that any "gringo" like myself might be a 
do?£Q times run through by a lancer of this order, before 
fairly aware of the drcurastanee ; and I made a mental 
• resolve, in case of encounlenug " Udroncs " with lances, to 
Bikppeal to my "Colt," before admitting any too familiar ap^ 

The morniiig of the third day found M. no better, and 
requiring, as before, the constant care of ihe doctor. SeBor 
Burtado had, however, plaatied an excursion across the 
i-oountry to the Pacific. We were to take coffee at Potosi 
I with Mr. Woenigcr, breakfast at an estate of Scflor Hurta- 
1 do's, in the little valley of Briio, ride to the sea, and be back 
to dinner. Wo were off at daylight, uud rode a league 
I through an unbroken garden, to Potosi, a straggling town 
Kke the Obraje, and, like that, a curious compound of city 
and country, plazas and plantations. Our friend was ex- 
pecting us, and after despatching our coffee, none the less 
acceptable because of our brisk ride, he showed us through 
his cacao estate. It was small but well kept, and constantly 
increasing in value ; for in addition to replacing the decay- 
ing trees, ho every year put in an additional four or five 
hundred, each one of which, when maturod, according to the 
rate of calculation here, is valued at a dollar. It requires 
from five to seven years to make a plantation; or rather, that 
time is requisite before the trees commence " paying." 

Amongst the various aboriginal relics which Mr. Woeni- 
ger had collected, on the island of Ometepec, was one of 
considerable interest, which is represented in No. 2 of the 
accompanying Plate. It is of stone, about fourteen inches 
in length, and eight high, and scema Intended to be a repre- 
sentation of some animal, couehanl. It was carefully pre- 
served by the Indians nt the summit of a high, secluded 





point of rocks, where they secretly resorted to pour out liba- 
tions before it, and to perform rites, the nature of which 
none would ever reveal. For more than fifty years the 
padres sought to discover this idol, but without success. 
Recently, however, its place had been ascertained ; it was 
seized and would have been thrown into the lake, had not 
Mr. Woeniger promised, if placed in his hands, to remove it 
from the island for ever. It is now in the Museum of the 
Smithsonian Institution at Washington. 

At a little distance beyond Potosi, the ridge of land which 
intervenes between the lake and the Pacific, commences to 
rise. It can hardly be called a ridge ; it is a broad plateau, 
and what upon either side appear to be hills, are nothing 
more than the edges of the table-land. The top of this 
plateau is undulating and diversified, and resembles some of 
the finer parts of New York and New England. We had a 
number of magnificent views of the lake and the intervening 
plain, as we rose above the general level ; the volcanoes of 
Ometepec and Madeira, now as always, constituting the most 
striking features in the landscape. Our road was gravelly 
and dry, and its windings pleasantly relieved by open fields 
and shadowy woodlands. I was a little surprised to find the 
valley of Brito, upon the summit of the plateau of which I 
have spoken, along which it runs longitudinally, and finally, 
by a succession of " s:\ltos," falls into the Pacific, at the little 
harbor of Nacascolo or Brito, not far to the northward of that 
of San Juan del Sur, the point spoken of as the western 
tenninus of the proposed line of transit. It is a sweet little 
valley, and at one of its sweetest parts is the indigo estate of 
SeQor Ilurtado. The building was spacious, built of adobes, 
with a tiled roof, and surrounded by a high fence of posts, 
placed in the ground upright, like stockades. Within this 
the ground was beaten smooth, and, spread upon sheets, were 
large quantities of indigo, receiving a final drying in the sun, 
preparatory to being packed for market Our host, with 


hospitable prevision, had, the day before, sent word of our 
coming, and we found a capital break&st, and a couple of 
well-cooled bottles of claret, awaiting our attentions. This 
disposed of, we went to visit the indigo " maquina.'' The 
first point of interest was the dam across the stream from 
which the water is obtained for driving the machinery and 
supplying the works. It was well constructed, and a very 
creditable piece of workmanship for any country. The next 
thing in importance was the " maquina" itself. It consisted 
of two immense vats of masonry, situated one above the 
other. In the lower one a large wheel was so placed as to 
be turned by water. Near these was a drying house, and 
other requisite apparatus, the purposes of which will be 
explained in the following account of the process of manu- 
fecturing indigo. 

I have elsewhere said that the indigo of Central America, 
amongst which that of Nicaragua is regarded as of a very 
superior quality, is obtained from an indigenous triennial 
plant, {Indigo/era disperma^ Linn,\ which attains its higliest per- 
fection in the richest soils. It will grow, however, upon almost 
any soil, and is very little affected by drought, or by super- 
abundant rains. In planting it, the ground is perfectly 
cleared, usually burnt over, and divided with an implement 
resembling a hoe into little trenches, two or three inches in 
depth, and twelve or fourteen apart, at the bottom of which 
the seeds are strewn by hand, and lightly covered with earth. 
A bushel of seed answers for four or five acres of land. In 
Nicaragua it is usually planted towards the close of the dry 
season in April or May, and attains its perfection, foV the 
purpose of manufacture, in from two and a half to three 
months. During this time it requires to be carefully weeded, 
to prevent any mixture of herbs, which would injure the 
quality of the indigo. When green, the plant closely resem- 
bles what in the United States is familiarly known as ''sweet 
clover," or the young and tender sprouts of the locust tree. 


When it becomes covered with a kind of greenish farina, it is 
in a fit state to be cut. This is done with knives, at a little 
distance above the root, so as to leave some of the branches, 
called in the West Indies " ratoons," for a second growth, 
which is also in readiness to be cut, in from six to eight 
weeks after. The crop of the first year is usually small, that 
of the second is esteemed the best, although that of the third 
is hardly inferior. It is said that some fields have been 
gathered for ten consecutive years without being resown, 
the fallen seed obviating the necessity of new plantings. 

After the plant is cut, it is bound in little bundles, carried 
to the vat, and placed in layers in the upper or larger one, 
called the " steeper," {mojadora). This vat holds from one 
thousand to ten thousand gallons, according to the require- 
ments of the estate. Boards loaded with weights are then 
placed upon the plants, and enough water let on to cover the 
whole, which is now left to steep or ferment. The rapidity 
of this process depends much upon the state of the weather 
and the condition of the plant. Sometimes it is accomplished 
in six or eight hours, but generally from fifteen to twenty. 
The proper length of time is determined by the color of the 
saturated water; but the great secret is to check the fermen- 
tation at the proper point, for upon this, in a great degree, 
depends the quality of the product. Without disturbing the 
plant, the water is now drawn oflE^ by cocks, into the lower 
vat or "beater," {golpeadoro^) where it is strongly and inces- 
santly beaten, in the smaller estates with paddles by hand, 
in the larger by wheels turned by horse or water-power. 
This is continued until it changes from the green color, 
which it at first displays, to a blue, and until the coloring 
matter, or floculoBj shows a disposition to curdle or subside. 
This is sometimes hastened by the infusion of certain herbs. 
It is then allowed to settle, and the water is carefully drawn 
oflT. The pulp granulates, at which time it resembles a fine, 
soft clay ; after which it is put into bags to drain, and then 


spread on cloths, in the sun, to dry. When properly dried, 
it is carefully selected according to its quality, and packed 
in hide cases, 150 lbs. each, called ceroons. The quality has 
not less than nine gradations, the best being of the highest 
figure. From 6 to 9 are called jiores^ and are the best ; from 
3 to 6, cortes ; from 1 to 3, inclusive, cohres. The two poorer 
qualities do not pay expenses. A mamana of one hundred 
yards square, produces, on an average, about one ceroon at 
each cutting. After the plant has passed through the vat, it 
is required by law that it shall be dried and burnt; because, 
in decomposing, it generates, by the million, an annoying 
insect called the " indigo fly." 

Thus the indigo plant requires constant attention during 
its growth, and must be cut at a particular period, or it is 
valueless. The subsequent processes are delicate, and 
require the utmost care. It will readily be understood, 
therefore, that the production of this staple would suffer 
most from revolutions and disturbances of the country, when 
it is impossible to obtain labor, or where the laborers are 
liable at any moment to be impreased for the army. As a 
consequence, it has greatly declined ; many fine estates have 
been entirely abandoned, and the export of the article 
reduced to less than a fifth of what it once was. Its produc- 
tion is now chiefly confined to San Salvador, where industry 
is better organized than in any of the other States. 

From SeBor Hurtado's hacienda, we rode along the shaded 
banks of the stream, to the little Indian town of Brita. It 
has nothing to distinguish it except its picturesque situation, 
and its unique little church, painted after the Indian fashion, 
with all the colors of the rainbow, — here a row of urns, 
there a line of flowers, curiously festooned, and the whole 
altogether more resembling the flaming front of a wooden 
clock from Yankeeland, than anything else under heaven. 
Near this place was a decayed cacao estate, belonging to a 
family of some notability in the country, but now only rep- 



resented in the female line. The avenue leading to the 
mansion had once been grand ; it was still lined with mag- 
nificent trees. The house was now dilapidated, and honey 
bees had dug out immense establishments in the adobe walls, 
around which they swarmed in a cloud. A dozen stout, 
half-naked fellows were lounging on the corridor, surrounded 
by an equal number of mangy dogs, which showed their 
teeth and snarled around our legs. The wife of the mayor- 
domo, himself a swarthy mestizo, was a feir, delicate girl, 
who looked wonderfully out of place amongst her rough 
companions. I obtained from her — for she was as kind and 
gentle as the masculines were morose and ugly — the stone 
vase, No. 1, of the Plate facing page 92. It had been 
brought to light but a short time before, in digging the posts 
for a cattle shed. It is about eighteen inches in height, and 
of proportionate diameter, cut from a single block of granite 
rock. There were handles, in the shape of a human head, 
upon each side, and the intermediate space, on a raised band 
around the middle, was tastefully ornamented, as shown in 
the engraving. 

Reserving for another place the observations which I this 
day made, in respect to the proposed route for a ship-canal 
to connect the lake and ocean at this point, I have only to 
add that the day was delightfully spent, and that our return 
to Rivas, in the cool of the evening, was one of the pleasant- 
est rides that I enjoyed in the country. I found that dur- 
ing my absence, the Prefect had sent me a very singular 
relic of antiquity, which had been exhumed some time pre- 
viously, near the city, which is represented by Fig. 3, in the 
same Plate with the vase just described. It is of the same 
material with the vase, and is ornamented in similar style. 
but more elaborately. It ^vill be observed that one of the 
projecting arms or ornaments on the side represented in the 
sketch, is broken off; it probably was analogous to that 
shown in the front. I cannot imagine what was the purpose 

VOL. n. 13 


of this singular piece of sculpture, unless designed as a pedi 
tal for an idol, or a seat for the dignitaries of aboriginal times, 
for both of which purposes it is very well adapted. It is 
about twenty inches in height ; and, in company with the 
vase, Ls deposited in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion at Washington. 

M., I found, was getting better of his fever ; the dangerous 
stage was passed, but he would be unable to endure any 
violent exercise for a week. I could not, therefore, depend 
upon him to accomplish the primary objects I had in view 
in visiting this section of the State, and as I expected impor- 
tant despatches from Government at Granada, I resolved, 
notwithstanding the solicitations of my host, to leave M. in 
care of the doctor, and return. The next morning was lixed 
for my departure. At sunrise, Seiior Hurtado had everything 
prepared, including a man to act as guide, and persisted in 
accompanying me to the Ob raj e, where, after extending an 
earnest invitation to visit him again, he left me and returned. 

We had been nearly the whole of one day in riding the 
ten leagues from the Ochomogo to Rivas, but I now went 
over the same ground before breakfasting. The hostess at 
Ochomogo was still puzzling her head how it could be possi- 
ble that I did not know " Capitan Esmith, un hombre muy 
ilustrado, y gordo r " Captain Smith, a very enlightened 
man, and fat P'^ 

Passing Ochomogo, my guide took me by a new, and as 
he said, shorter path, from that by which we came ; so I 
missed the satisfaction of calling the inhospitable mayor- 
domo a shameless fellow, and lost the opportunity of seeing 
Nandyme by daylight. Although the distance is called 
sixty miles, the sun was yet high in the west when I arrived 
within sight of Granada. A light shower was just sweeping 
over it, spanned by a beautiful rainbow, like the portal of 
Paradise. As I came nearer, I heard the eternal banging of 
bombas, and rode into the city amidst serpientes, waving 


flags, and the other eye and ear- wearying nonsense of a fiesta. 
I would have gone through the principal street, but the peo- 
ple all at once fell on their knees, and I was saluted by a 
hundred voices, ** Quita su sombrero I" — " Take off your 
hat 1" I looked down the street, and saw a procession ap- 
proaching at the other end, preceded by a score of squeak- 
ing violins and a squad of soldiers, and followed by a regi- 
ment of saints* effigies, borne on men^s shoulders. My guide 
dismounted and dropped on his marrow bones in the mud, 
while Ben and myself turned down a side street, leaving the 
guide to follow when he got ready. I was heartily tired of 
•fiestas and saints, and began to think if the people prayed 
less and worked more, they would be doing both God and 
man better service. 

My despatches had arrived that afternoon, with three 
months' later dates, for we had heard nothing from home 
during that period, except through British agents, who took 
a malicious satisfaction in showing us how much more effi- 
cient, active, and intelligent is the British Government, in 
the conduct of its foreign relations, than our own. It was 
seldom that despatches ever reached the American officers in 
this country, and then only long after date. I got bushels 
of letters, papers, and documents, all directed to my prede- 
cessor, at eight, twelve, and even eighteen months after they 
were despatched from Washington. The English agents were 
never thirty days behindhand. The first intimation of the 
declaration of war with Mexico, received by our naval com- 
mander in the Pacific, was through the British Admiral, and 
after that officer had taken such measures as he thought pro- 
per under the circumstances.* It was only the superior swift- 

1 "During the diplomatic employments with which I have been so long 
lionored by the favor of my country, I have been constantly mortified 
by the dependence in which our foreign agents are left upon a foreign and 
rival government, for the transmission of their correspondence." — ^Hok. 
Wheaton, io the Department of Staie^ Dec. 1845. 


ness of American ships which enabled us to anticipate the 
seizure of California by Great Britain, under pretext of se- 
curing its Mexican debts. On such a small matter as tJiat^ 
turned the great question of American predominance in the 
Pacific, and American maritime and commercial ascendancy 
throughout the world. In appointing even so insignificant 
an officer as a despatch agent, our government should not 
forget this fact, nor neglect to ask itself the question, " What 
if England had got California?" 

The matters contained in my letters required my imme- 
diate presence in Leon. Accordingly I left the next morn- 
ing, and accomplished the entire distance, one hundred and 
twenty miles, in a day and a half, — or, counting from Nica- 
ragua, one hundred and eighty miles in two days and a hal^ 
being at the rate of seventy-two miles a day. This was 
done with the same horse, one which had cost me but thirty 
dollars, and which came into Leon at the same pace with 
which he had left Nicaragua, and apparently as unwearied 
as then. And yet I suffered nothing from fatigue, and, not- 
withstandiog all that I had heard said about the debilitating 
effects of the climate, felt as vigorous as I had ever done, 
under the most favorable circumstances, at home. 

I found two soldiers pacing the corridor of my house, 
Avhich greatly puzzled me. My old friend Padre Cartine, I 
afterwards found, had dreamed a dream, to the purport that 
robbers were seeking to enter it, and had given the General 
no peace until he had stationed a guard there to keep " watch 
and ward" day and night. Poor old Padre ! It is precious little 
the "ladrones" would have got, had the dream proved true. 

And thus terminated my second antiquarian expedition. 
I have only given an outline of the incidents which befel 
me, and shall reserve all speculation upon my discoveries for 
another place, viz., the chapter on the Aboriginal Inhabitants 
of Nicaragua, to which those who read for some other pur- 
pose than mere amusement, are respectfully referred. 





No equal extern of the American continent, perhaps of 
the globe, possesses so many volcanoes, active and extinct, or 
exhibits so many traces of volcanic action, as Central Amer- 
ica ; that is to say, the region embraced between the Isthmus 
of Tehuantepec and that of Panama, or Darien. In the 
words of Mr. Stephens, the entire Pacific coast of this re- 
markable country "bristles with volcanic cones," which form 
a conspicuous feature in every landscape, rising above the 
plains and undulating hills, and often from the edges of the 
great lakes, with the regularity and symmetry of the pyra- 
mids. It is a matter of surprise and regret that, affording as 
it does, so excellent a field for studying the grand and inter- 
esting phenomena connected with volcanoes and earthquakes, 
this country has not more particularly attracted the attention 
of scientific men, and especially of those who ascribe to 


igneous and volcanic agency so important a part in the phy- 
sical changes which our planet has undergone. Humboldt 
did not pass through Central America, although fully im- 
pressed with the importance of its geological and topograph- 
ical investigation ; a deficiency which he deplores in many 
places in his published researches. Nor am I aware that any 
but very partial and imperfect accounts have been given to 
the world of the volcanoes of this country, and those have 
been by persons claiming no consideration as scientific men. 
Recognizing fully my own deficiency in this respect, I should 
not think of venturing on the subject, except in the hope of 
directing anew the attention of competent persons to it, and 
thus contributing to supply the desideratum. 

The volcanoes of Central America are all situated on the 
Pacific coast ; the eastern slope of the continent consisting 
of broken mountain ranges, which exhibit few traces of vol- 
canic action. In fact, they occur almost in a right line, run- 
ning due N. W. and S. E., commencing with the high vol- 
cano of Cartago in Costa Rica (11,480 feet high), from the 
summit of which both oceans are visible, to Citlaltepetl, in 
the Department of Vera Cruz, in Mexico. There are several 
hundred volcanic peaks and extinct craters on this line, the 
most remarkable of which are Cartago, or Irasu, Turrialva, 
Barba,and Vatos, (9,840 feet high,) in Costa Rica ; Abogado, 
Cerro Pelas, Miriballes, Tenerio, Rincon de la Vieja, Orosi, 
Madeira, Ometepec, Zapatero, Guanapepe, Guanacaure, 
Solentinami, Momobacho, Masaya or Nindiri, Managua, 
Momotombo, (6,500 feet high,) Las Pilas, Acosusco, Orota, 
Telica, Santa Clara, El Viejo, (6,030 feet high,) Coseguina, 
and Jolt^pec, in Nicaragua; El Tigre, and Nacaome, in 
Honduras; Amapala or Conchagua, San Salvador, San 
Miguel, San Vicentd, Isalco, Paneon, and Santa Ana, in San 
Salvador ; Pacaya, Volcan de Agua, Volcan de Fuego, In- 
contro, Acatenango, Atitlan, Tesanuelco, Sapotitlan, Amilpas, 
Quesaltenango, and Soconusco, in Guatemala. There are 


many others which are nameless, or of which the names are 
unknown. ^Somc ten or twelve of those above named are 
said to be "viw," alive, — ^that is to say, they throw out 
smoke, and exhibit other evidences of vitality. But three 
or four, however, can be said to be active at present, of 
which, Isalco, in San Salvador, is the most remarkable, 
having been formed within the last eighty years, and within 
the recollection of persons now living. 

This volcano, and that of Jorullo, in Mexico, described 
by Humboldt, are, I believe, all that have originated 
on the continent since the Discovery. It arose from 
the plain in 1770, and covers what was then a fine cattle 
hacienda or estate. The occupants on this estate were 
alarmed by subterraneous noises, and shocks of earthquakes, 
about the end of 1769, which continued to increase in loud- 
ness and strength until the 23d of the February following, 
when the earth opened about half-a-mile from the dwellings 
on the estate, sending out lava, accompanied by fire and 
smoke. The inhabitants fled; but the vaqueros^ or herds- 
men, who visited the estate daily, reported a constant 
increase in the smoke and flame, and that the ejection of lava 
was at times suspended, and vast quantities of ashes, cinders, 
and stones sent out instead, forming an increasing cone 
around the vent, or crater. This process was repeated for a 
long period, but for many years the volcano has thrown out 
no lava. It has, however, remained in a state of constant 
eruption, the explosions occurring every sixteen minutes and 
a quarter, with a noise like the discharge of a park of artil- 
lery, accompanied by a dense smoke and a cloud of ashes 
and stones, which fall upon every side, and add to the height 
of the cone. It is now about 1,500 or 2,000 feet in height, 
and I am informed by an intelligent West Indian gentleman. 
Dr. Driven, who has known it for the past twenty-five years, 
that within that period it has increased about one-third. At 
some times the explosions are more violent than at others, 


and the ejected matter greater in amount ; but it ia said 1 
discharges are always regular. With the wind in a favora 
direction, an annoying and sometimes injurious cpantity d 
fine ashes or powder ia carried to the city of Sonsonat<| 
twelve miles distant. The volcano of Jorullorose, I believe,^ 
in a single night; but, as we have seen, Isalco is the result 
of long continued deposits, and it seems to me that most of 
the volcanoes of Central America, including some of the 
largest, have been formed in like manner. In fact, I have 
been a personal witness of the origin of a new volcano, which, 
if it has not met a premature extinguishment, bids iair to 
add another high cone to those which now stud the great 
plain of Leon. 

I'liis plain ia traversed by a succession of volcanic cones, 
commencing with the gigantic Momotombo, standing boldly 
out into the Lake of Managua, and ending with the memora- 
ble Coseguina, projecting its base not less boldly into the 
ocean, constituting the line of the Marabios. Fourteen dis- 
tinct volcanoes occur within one hundred miles, on this line, 
all of which are visible at the same time. They do not form 
a continuous range, but stand singly, the plain between them 
generally preserving its original level. They have not been 
" thrust up," as the volcano of Jorullo seemed to have been, 
elevating the strata around them ; although it is not certain 
but the original volcanic force, being general in its action, 
raised up the whole plain to its present level. All these are 
surrounded by beds of lava, mal pais, extending, in some 
cases, for leagues in every direction. The lava current in 
places seems to have spread out in sheets, flowing elsewhere, 
however, in high and serpentine ridges, resembling Cyclopean 
walls, often capriciously enclosing spaces of arable ground, 
in which vegetation is luxuriant: these are called by the 
natives corrales, yards. Hot springs, and openings in the 
ground emitting hot air, smoke, and steam, called in/emales, 
are common around the bases of these volcanoes. For large 


tlie whole ground seems Testing upon a boiling 
jldroE, and is encrusted with mineral deposits. There are 
> many places where the ground is depressed and bare, 
Bmbling a honey-combed, ferruginous clay-pit, from which 
[dphurous vapors are constantly rising, destroying vegeta- 
tion in the vicinity, but especially to the leeward, where they 
are carried by the wind. By daylight nothing is to be seen 
at these places, except a kind of tremulous motion of the 
heated atmosphere near the sur&ce of the ground. But at 
night, the whole is lighted bya flickering, bluish, and etherial 
flame, like that of burning spirits, which spreads at one 
moment over the whole surface, at the next shoots up into 
high spires, and then diffuses itself again, in a strange, 
unearthly manner. This is called by the "gente del campo," 
the people of the fields, "la baile de los Demonios," the 
Dance of the Devils. 

Around some of these volcanoes, that is to say those having 
visible craters, are many smaller cones, of great regularity, 
composed of ashes, volcanic sand, and triturated stones, 
resembling septaria. They seldom support anjfthing but a few 
dwarf trees, and are covered with coarse grass. This grass, 
when green, gives them a beautiful emerald appearance. In 
the dry season this color is exchanged for yellow, which, 
after the annual, burning, gives place to black. They con- 
stitute with their changes very singular and striking features 
in the Central American landscape. 

On the 11th and 12th days of April, 1850, rumbling 
sounds, resembling thunder, were heard in the city of Leon. 
They seemed to proceed from the direction of the volcanoes, 
and were supposed to come from the great volcano of 
Momotombo, which often emits noises, and shows other 
symptoms of activity, besides sending out smoke. This vol- 
cano, however, on this occasion exhibited no unusual indi- 
cations. The sounds increased in loudness and frequency on 
the night of the 12th, and occasional tremors of the earth 
VOL. IL 14 


were felt as far as Leon ; which, near the mountains, were 
quite violent, terrifying the inhabitants. Early on the 
morning of Sunday, the 13th, an orifice opened near the base 
of the long-extinguished volcano of Las Pilas, about twenty 
miles distant from Leon. The throes of the earth at the time 
of the outburst were very severe in the vicinity, resembling, 
from the accounts of the natives, a series of concussions. 
The precise point where the opening was made might be 
said to be in the plain ; it was, however, somewhat elevated 
by the lava which had ages before flowed down from the 
volcano, and it was through this bed of lava that the eruption 
took place. No people reside within some miles of the spot ; 
consequently I am not well informed concerning the earlier 
phenomena exhibited by the new volcano. It seems, how- 
ever, that the outburst was attended with much flame, and 
that, at first, quantities of melted matter were ejected irregu- 
larly in every direction. Indeed, this was clearly the case, 
as Wtos shown upon my visit to the spot some days there- 
afler. For a vdde distance around were scattered large flakes 
resembling freshly cast iron. This irregular discharge con- 
tinued only for a few hours, and was followed by a current 
of lava, which flowed down the slope of the land toward the 
west, in the form of a high ridge, rising above the tops of 
the trees, and bearing down everything which opposed its 
progress. While this flow continued, which it did for the 
remainder of the day, the earth was quiet, excepting only a 
very slight tremor, which was not felt beyond a few miles. 
Upon the 14th, however, the lava stopped flowing, and an 
entirely new mode of action followed. A series of eruptions 
commenced, each lasting about three minutes, succeeded by 
a pause of equal duration. Each eruption was accompanied 
by concussions of the earth, (too slight, however, to be felt at 
Leon,) attended also by an outburst of flame, a hundred feet or 
more in height. Showers of red-hot stones were also ejected 
with each eruption to the height of several hundred feet 


Most of these fell back into the mouth or crater, the rest falling 
outward, and gradually building up a cone around it. By 
the attrition of this process, the stones became more or less 
rounded, thus explaining a peculiarity in the volcanic stones 
already alluded to. These explosions continued uninter- 
ruptedly for seven days, and could be accurately observed 
from Leon in the night. Upon the morning of the 22d, 
accompanied by Dr. J. W. Livingston, U. S. Consul, I set 
out to visit the spot. No one had ventured near it, but we 
had no difficulty in persuading some vaqueras, from the 
haciendas of Orota, to act as guides. We rode with difficulty 
over beds of lava, until within about a mile and a-half of the 
place, proceeding thence on foot. In order to obain a full 
view of the new volcano, we ascended a high, naked ridge of 
scoriiB, entirely overlooking it. From this point it presented 
the appearance of an immense kettle, upturned, with a hole 
knocked in the bottom, forming the crater. From this, upon 
one side ran oflF the lava stream, yet fervent with heat, and 
sending ofif its tremulous radiations. The eruptions had 
ceased that morning, but a volume of smoke was still emitted, 
which the strong north-east wind swept down in a trailing 
current along the tree-tops. 

The cone was patched over with yellow, the color of the 
crystallized sulphur deposited by the hot vapors passing up 
amongst the loose stones. The trees all around were stripped 
of their limbs, leaves, and bark, and resembled so many 
giant skeletons. Tempted by the quietude of the volcano, 
and anxious to inspect it more closely, in spite of the warn- 
ings of our guides, we descended from our position, and 
going to the windward, scrambled over the intervening lava 
beds, through patches of thorny cacti and agaves, toward 
the cone. On all sides we found the flakes of melted matter 
which had been thrown out on the first day of the eruption, 
and which had moulded themselves over whatever they fell 
upon. We had no difficulty in reaching the base of the 


cone, the wind driving off the smoke and vapors to the lee- 
ward. It was perhaps a hundred and fifty or two hundred 
feet high, by two hundred yards in diameter at the base, and 
of great regularity of outline. It was made up entirely of 
stones, more or less rounded, and of every size, from one 
pound up to five hundred. No sound was heard when we 
reached it, except a low, rumbling noise, accompanied by a 
very slight tremulous motion. Anxious to examine it more 
closely, and to test the truth of the popular assertion that any 
marked disturbance near the volcanic vents is sure to bring 
on an eruption, we prepared to ascend. Fearing we might 
find the stones too much heated near the summit, to save 
my hands, I prepared myself with two staffs, as supports. 
The Doctor disdained such appliances, and started without 
them. The ascent was very laborious, the stones roUing 
away beneath our feet, and rattling down the sides. We 
however almost succeeded in reaching the summit, when 
the Doctor, who was a little in advance, suddenly recoiled 
with an exclamation of pain, having all at once reached a 
layer of stones so hot as to blister his hands at the first touch. 
We paused for a moment, and I was looking to my footing, 
when I was startled by an exclamation of terror from my 
companion, who gave simultaneously an almost superhuman 
leap down the side. At the same instant a strange roar 
almost deafened me; there seemed to be a whirl of the 
atmosphere, and a sinking of the mass upon which I was 
standing. Quick as thought I glanced upward ; the heavens 
were black with stones, and a thousand lightnings flashed 
among them. All this was in an instant, and in the same 
instant I too was dashing down the side, reaching the bottom 
at the same moment with my companion, and just in time to 
escape the stones, which fell in rattling torrents where we 
had stood a moment before. I need not say that in spite of 
spiny cacti and rugged beds of lava, we were not long in 
putting a respectable and safe distance between us and the 


flamiDg object of our curiosity. The eruption lasted for 
nearly an hour, interspersed with lulls, like long breathings. 
The noise was that of innumerable blast-furnaces in full 
operation, and the air was filled with projected and falling 
stones. The subsidence was almost as sudden as the out- 
burst, and we waited several hours in vain for another 
eruption. Our guides assured us that a second attempt to 
ascend, or any marked disturbance on the slope, or in the 
vicinity, would be followed by an eruption, but we did not 
care to try the experiment. 

From that period until I left Central America, I am not 
aware that there occurred more than one eruption, namely, 
on the occasion of the falling of the first considerable shower 
of rain, on, I think, the 27th of the month succeeding that 
in which the outbreak occurred. Nor have I learned that up 
to this time this promising young volcano has exhibited any 
additional active phenomena. I fear that its earlier efforts 
were too energetic, and that it has gone into a premature 

The discharges from this vent, consisting wholly of stones, 
may have been and probably were peculiar ; for the volcanoes 
themselves, and the cones surrounding them, generally seem 
to have been made up of such stones, interspersed through 
large quantities of ashes and scoriaceous sand, alternating 
with beds of lava. 

A few days before our visit, a deputation from the vaqueros 
and others living in the vicinity of Las Pilas had visited 
Leon, for the purpose of soliciting the Bishop to go to this 
place and baptize the prospective volcano, in order to keep 
it in moderation, and make it observe the proprieties of life. 
I believe a partial assent was obtained, and the city was full 
of rumors touching this novel ceremony, which I was exceed- 
ingly curious to witness. But its early relapse into quietude 
dispelled the fears of the people, and th^ proposed rite was 
never performed, much to my disappointment, as I intended 


to stand as god-father, compadre, to the Volcano de los Nortes 
Americanos I This is an old practice, and the ceremony, it 
is said, was performed, early after the Conquest, on all the 
volcanoes in Nicaragua, with the exception of Momotombo, 
which is yet amongst the unsanctified. The old friars who 
started for its summit, to set up the cross there, were never 
heard of again. 

Although believing that most of the volcanic cones have 
been formed in the manner above indicated, by gradual ac- 
cumulations, yet the volcanoes which have shown the greatest 
energy are low and irregular, and devoid of anything re- 
markable in their appearance. Such is the Volcano of Cose- 
guina, in Nicaragua, the eruption of which in 1835 was one of 
the most terrible on record. 

On the morning of the 20th of January of that year, sev- 
eral loud explosions were heard for a radius of a hundred 
leagues around this volcano, followed by the rising of an inky 
black cloud above it, through which darted tongues of flame 
resembling lightning. This cloud gradually spread outward, 
obscuring the sun, and shedding over everything a yellow, 
sickly light, and at the same time depositing a fine sand, 
which rendered respii'ation difficult and painful. This con- 
tinued for two days, the obscuration becoming more and 
more dense, the sand falling more thickly, and the explosions 
becoming louder and more frequent. On the third day the 
explosions attained their maximum, and the darkness became 
intense. Sand continued to fall, and people deserted their 
houses and sheltered themselves under tents of hide in the 
courts, fearing the roofe might be crushed beneath the weight. 
This sand fell several inches deep at Leon, more than one 
hundred miles distant. It fell in Jamaica, Vera Cruz, and 
Santa Fe de Bogota, over an area of one thousand five hun- 
dred miles in diameter. The noise of the explosions was 
heard nearly as far, and the Superintendent of Belize, eight 
hundred miles distant, mustered his troops, under the impres- 


sion that there was a naval action off the harbor. All Na- 
ture seemed overawed ; the birds deserted the air, and the 
wild beasts their fastnesses, crouching, terror-stricken and 
harmless, in the dwellings of men. The people for a hun- 
dred leagues groped, dumb with horror, amidst the thick 
darkness, bearing crosses on their shoulders and stones on 
their heads, in penitential abasement and dismay. Many 
believed the day of doom had come, and crowded with noise- 
less footsteps over a bed of ashes to the tottering churches, 
where, in the pauses of the explosions, the voices of the 
priests were heard in solemn invocation to Heaven. The 
strongest lights were invisible at the distance of a few feet ; 
and, to heighten the terrors of the scene, occasional light- 
nings traversed the darkness, shedding a lurid glare over the 
earth. This continued for forty-three hours, when the shocks 
of earthquakes and the eruptions ceased, and a brisk wind 
springing up, the obscuration gradually passed away. 

The air was literally filled with an almost impalpable pow- 
der, which entered the eyes, ears, and nostrils, and produced 
a sensation of suffocation, a gasping for breath. At first the 
doors and windows were closed, but without effect ; the ex- 
clusion of air, joined to the intense heat, became intolerable. 
The only relief was found in throwing wetted cloths over 
their heads. The horses and mules suffered not less than the 
people ; many died, and others were saved only by adopting 
the same precautions. 

For some leagues around the volcano, the sand and ashes 
had fallen to the depth of several feet. Of course the ope- 
rations of the volcano could only be known by the results. 
A crater had been opened, several miles in circumference, 
from which had flowed vast quantities of lava into the sea 
on one hand, and the Gulf of Fonseca on the other. The 
verdant sides of the mountain were now rough, burned, 
seamed, and covered with disrupted rocks and fields of lava. 
The quantity of matter ejected was incredible in amount I 


am informed by the captain of a vessel which passed along 
the coast a few days thereafter, that the sea for fifty leagues 
was covered with floating masses of pumice, and that he 
sailed for a whole day through it, without being able to dis- 
tinguish but here and there an open space of water. 

The appearance of this mountain is now desolate beyond 
description. Not a trace of life appears upon its parched 
sides. Here and there are openings emitting steam, small 
jets of smoke and sulphurous vapors, and in some places the 
ground is swampy from thermal springs. It is said that the 
discharge of ashes, sand, and lava was followed by a flow of 
water, and the story seems corroborated by the particular 
smoothness of some parts of the slope. The height of this 
mountain is not, I think, more than three thousand five hun- 
dred feet. 

The anniversary of this eruption is celebrated in the most 
solemn manner in Nicaragua. I witnessed the ceremony in 
the church of La Merced, where, in common with all the 
foreign residents, I was invited by a circular letter as fol- 

Leon* Enero 20 de 1850. 

Por imposicion de las sagradas inanos de S. E. YUma. el dignisimo Sr. 
Obispo Dr. D. Jorje de Viteri y Ungo, he recibido hoy el orden sacro del 
Presbiterado ; y por su disposicion, subire al au gusto Altar del Eterno a 
oclebrar por la primera vez el tremeado sacrificio, el dia 23 del corriente, 
aniversario dicimo quinto de la erupcion del volcan de Coseguina^ en la 
Yglesia de Ntra. Senora de las Mercedes, por cuya poderosa intercesion, 
salvamos en aquella vez de los peligros que nos amenazaron. Alli predi- 
cara el mismo Exomo. Sr., mi amado Prelado. 

Tengo el honor de participarlo todo a U., suplicandole su interesante 

concurrencia, y firraandome con placer, su muy respetuoso seguro servidor 

y capellan Q. B. S. M. 

Rafael Pablo Jerez. 


Leon, January 20, 1850. 
By the imposition of the sacred hands of Ilis Excellency the most 
illustrious and most dignified Bishop, Dr. Don Jorge de Viteri y Ungo, I 


have this day been invested with the orders of priesthood ; and by his 

direction, will ascend the august Altar of the Eternal, to celebrate for the 

first time the tremendous sacrifice of the fifteenth anniversary of the 

eruption of the volcano of Coseguina, on the 23rd inst, in the church of 

our Lady of Mercies, by whose powerful intercession we were then saved 

from the dangers wliich threatened us. There also will preach the same 

excellent Senor, my beloved prelate. 

I have the honor to inform you of this, and to solicit your concurrence. 

With pleasure I subscribe myself your very respectful, faithful servant and 


Who kisses your hands, 

Rafael^ Pablo Jerez. 

The ceremony was very impressive,* and the memory of 
the terrible event thus commemorated was evidently strong 
in the minds of those who had witnessed it, and who might 
be distinguished by their greater gravity and devotion. 

It has been observed that any great eruption, like that 

' Byam, an English traveller, makes the following statement, which is 
copied without any endorsement of its truth : — 

" On the morning of the 23d the fall of ashes became more dense, and 
the natural grave of man seemed to be rising from the earth instead of 
being dug in it The women, -with their heads covered with wet linen, to 
obviate the smothering effect of the falling dust, again hurried to the 
churches with cries and lamentations, and tried to sing canticles to their 
&vonte saints. As a last resort, every saint in the churches of Leon, 
without exception, lest he should be offended, was taken from his niche 
and placed in the open air, — I suppose to enable him to judge from ex- 
perience of the state of affairs — but still the ashes fell I 

"Towards night, however, a mighty wind sprung up fron^ the north, 
and the inhabitants at last gained a view of the sun's setting rays, gilding 
their national volcanoes. Of course the cessation of the shower of ashes 
was attributed to the intercession of these saints, who doubtless wished 
to get under cover again, which opinion was strongly approved of by the 
priests, as they would certainly not be the losers by the many offerings ; 
but during a general procession for Uianks, which took place the next day, 
it was discovered that the paint which had been rather clumsily bestowed 
upon the Virgin's face had blistered from the heat of the numerous candles 
burned around it, and half Leon proclaimed that she had caught the small- 
pox during her residence in the city, and in consequence of her anger 

VOL. n. 15 


above recorded, is often attended by similar phenomena in 
other and remote localities. Thus, a few weeks after the 
eruption of Coseguina, the whole of New Granada was con- 
vulsed ; the subterranean thunder was heard simultaneously 
in Nicaragua, Popayan, Bogota, Santa Martha, Caraccas, Hayti, 
Curacoa, and Jamaica. These synchronous evidences of ac- 
tivity in subterranean forces is very well illustrated in the 
recent earthquakes in Venezuela, Peru, Chili, the Antilles, 
Central America, Mexico, and California. The centres of 
greatest violence seem to have been in Costa Eica, Venezuela, 
and Chili. % In Costa Kica the places nearest the volcanoes of 
Orosi and Cartago suffered most; among these were the 
cities of San Jos6 and Heredia, and the town of Barba. 
Many churches and private dwellings were thrown down or 
injured. The shocks occurred on the 18th of March last 
(1851) at about 8 o'clock in the morning ; on the Isthmus of 
Panama on the 15th of May ; in Chile on the 2d of April. 
The amount of property destroyed in Valparaiso was estima- 
ted at a million and a half of dollars. In the island of 
Guadaloupe the earthquakes commenced on the 16th of May, 
and continued until the 18th; and in San Francisco they 
were felt on the 15th of the same month.* 

The volcano nearest Leon is that of Telica, which is the 

the infliction they had just suffered was imposed upon them. Innumera- 
ble were the candles burnt before the ' Queen of Heaven,' and many and 
valuable thei offerings to her priests, for the sake of propitiation," — Wan- 
derings, p. 37. 

' A number of severe earthquakes have happened within the last few 
years. One occurred in Guatemala in 1830, nearly if not quite as severe 
as that of 1773. In February, 1831, and September, 1839, severe shocks 
were felt in San Salvador, and in 1841 in Costa Rica. The last nearly 
destroyed the city of Cartago, which had previously suffered a similar 
catastrophe. May, 184:4, was distinguished throughout Nicaragua by a 
series of earthquakes occurring at regular intervals, over a period of sev- 
eral days. The city of Nicaragua suffered much, and the waters of the 
lake were observed to rise and (all with the throes of the earth. 


smallest of the group, being not more than three thousand 
feet high, but exceedingly regular in outline. It has recently 
been ascended by my friend Prof. Julius Fr(EBEL, whose 
interesting account I subjoin : 

" From Leon, I made an excursion to the volcanic cone of Telica, which 
is more easy of ascent than any other peak in the neighborhood. In 
fact, the road to the summit is more fatiguing than dangerous. I rode 
one evening to the village of Telica, which is two leagues distant from 
Leon. I mounted my horse the next morning at 4 o'clock, in company 
with a good guide, and well provided with water and provisions. At 
first by moonlight and afterwards in the morning twilight, we rode, 
slowly ascending, through a thick forest. The path gradually became 
more steep and rough. As the forests disappeared, savannas followed, 
which, where they had been recently swept by fire, were clothed with a 
fresh and tender green. Manifold trees and shrubs, some without leaves, 
but gay with blossoms, formed park-like groups in the broad mountain 
meadows. One of these small, elevated valleys was ravi^ingly beautiful. 
It was surrounded by the highest summits, whose sides are covered with 
grass, out of which shoot the single stems of the wine-palm, (coyol,) while 
a little grove of this and other trees, mixed with shrubbery, stood in the 
lake of grass, six feet deep, which filled the bottom. The coyol-palm 
famishes, by tapping, a sweet, cooling, and healthy juice, which is some- 
times drunk when fresh and sometimes when undergoing fermentation, 
under the name of chicha-coyoL The nuts which depend from the crown 
in immense clusters, are about the size of small apples. They are a fa- 
vorite food of cattle, and are sometimes eaten by the natives ; they furnish 
an oil, which is much finer than the cocoa oU, and is adapted to a variety 
of uses. 

" At last, high above, the grass grows scattered among sharp blocks of 
lava, which make the road toilsome and dangerous. At the limit of 
shrubbery we left our horses and all our heavy equipments behind, and 
continued our journey on foot In an hour we had reached the summit, 
and stood on the edge of a crater from two to three hundred feet deep. 
We lowered ourselves with a rope down a perpendicular wall of rock, 
from sixty to seventy feet deep, and then clambered toward the centre. 
The hot steam which here and there came from the damp and heated 
earth, and a great weakness which I felt in consequence of a violent fit 
of Tomiting that seized me on the way, prevented me from penetrating 
into the lowest depths. There is little of interest to be seen there, how- 


ever j for the crater is filled with fragmeuts which have tumbled down 
from the side walls, so that, with the exception of some crystals of sul- 
phur and sublimated sails, no substance is to be found which I had not 
already picked up on the side of the mountain. It is a mass of black, 
porous lava, faded to a reddish brown on the outside from the effects of 
the weather, and sprinkled with small crystals of glassy feldspar. On the 
outside, near the summit, it is frequently raised into oven-shaped curves, 
with a laminar division of the strata, but generally occurs in angular 
masses or flat cakes. The whole mountain, like all the cones of this 
region, has been built up by the masses hurled from its depths. In the 
crater I found a few small specimens of crystalline lime, and others of a 
remarkably hard variety of augite. Inside and deep down, there was a 
small bush, apparently a vaccinium^ (whortleberry,) with panicles of 
beautiful white, hirsute, bell-shaped flowers, and some bunches of taste- 
less blackberries. On the upper edge of the crater I found an orchitUE, 
whose crimson spike of blossoms resembled some varieties of our Grerman 
orchis. A small fir-tree stood rooted among the rocks near the summit ; 
the other vegetation was grass and a few insignificant weeds. 

" The view from the summit is magnificent Near at hand is the whole 
group of volcanoes, from Momotombo to Viejo. Behind the former of 
these flashes the Lake of Managua, a great part of which is visible. Over 
and beyond it, the landscape is lost in the haze of distance. On the other 
hand, the eye wanders wide over the uncertain horizon of the Pacific, 
against which are traced, in sharp outline, the winding bays and head- 
lands of the coast You can trace its irregular line from the neighborhood 
of Realejo far to the south-east, and overlook the isthmus between the 
Ocean and Lake Managua. To the north you have the long mountain 
chain which stretches from the San Juan River, along the north-eastern 
shores of Lakes Nicaragua and Managua, through the districts of Chon- 
tales, Matagalpa and New Segovia, to the States of Honduras and San 
Salvador. At the foot of this chain, which is completely separated from 
the volcanic group of Momotombo, Telica, and Viejo, rise a number of 
conical hills, some of them in the plain which extends firom the north- 
western extremity of Lake Managua behind the volcanoes, toward the 
Gulf of Fonseca. The whole view is a splendid picture of plain and moun- 
tain, covered with brilliant vegetation as far as the eye can reach, the 
rich, cultivated plantations being scarcely discernible in the vast space. 
Here and there the sliimmer of a sheet of water enlivens the universal 

" I reached the village in time to return to Leon the same evening. A 
few days previously I had visited two sulphur springs at the foot of th^^ 


moantain — called respectively Ban Jacinto and Tisate. At the former 
place, a hot, insipid, reddish-brown water, whose steam had an acrid, sul- 
phurous flavor, boils up from the soil in numberless small holes. Through 
the agency of various metallic salts and oxides, the hot^ soft clay exhibits 
all shades of white, yellow, brown, red, green, blue and black, while the 
soil is crusted with sublimated ^ulphur and freed salts of different kinds. 
At the latter place, a sort of ashy gray, boiling slime, or rather clay-broth, 
is hurled into the air from a small crater. Near it a hiU has been formed 
of the same variegated earths and salts as are seen at San Jacinto. These 
are two genuine chemical laboratories, where a number of processes are 
going on. In the clayey slime, penetrated with hot steam, sulphuric acids 
and gases, I found thousands of shining sulphur pyrites, which, according 
to all appearances, were constantly forming." 

The volcano of El Viejo was ascended in 1838, by Capt. 
Belcher, of the British Navy, who made its absolute height 
5662 feet ; but according to my own admeasurements it is just 
6000 feet. As the cone of El Viejo rises sheer from the 
plain, it probably appears much higher than the more 
elevated peak of Cartago, which rises from an elevated 
mountain range. Capt. Belcher thus describes his ascent : 

" At four p. M., having procured guides, we proceeded to the foot of the 
mountain, where we designed sleeping. Our journey lay partly through 
the woods, where the guides halted for a draught of the fermented juice 
of the palm, which they had prepared in their previous visits, and others 
were now tapped, in readiness for our return. After scrambling through 
much loose lava-rock, which I was surprised to see the animals attempt, 
as it was entirely hidden by long grass, we reached our sleeping station 
at seven o'clock, when, having picked out the softest stone bed, and teth- 
ered our animals, we made the most of our time in the way of sleeping. 

" At dawn on the 10th (of February), we remounted our animals, and 
passed still more difficult ground, until half-past six, when we reached 
the lower line of the " Pine range," that tree observing a distinct line 
throughout all these mountain ranges. It became, therefore, a matter of 
interest to ascertain this elevation, which by barometric data is 3000 feet 
above the sea level Temperature at this time (before sunrise) 66^ of 

" Having tethered our beasts, we now commenced our ascent H pied, 
T^e first efforts, owing to the long grass, were fatiguing, and the mate was 


hors du comhai before we reached half way. As we ascended, the grass dis- 
i^ipeared, the breeze freshened, and spirits rose, and at nine we had turned 
the lip of the crater. Here I was surprised by a peak presenting itself 
on the opposite side of the crater, and apparently inaccessible. I never- 
theless descended to the edge of the inner cone, from whence I thought 
I discovered a narrow pass ; but it was only by dint of perseverance and 
determination that we could persuade the guides to re-shoulder the in- 
struments and go ahead. Difficulties vanished as we proceeded, and we 
found a path beaten by the wild bullocks, which led to the very peak. 
Here I obtained the requisite observations for determining the position and 
height The range of the temperature here during our stay (from half 
past ten until half past one) was from 77** to 80® Fahrenheit 

" I was unfortunate in the day ; it blew freshly (although calm at the 
base), was hazy, and excepting high peaks and headlands, I lost the most 
interesting minutiie. The volcano now consists of three craters. The 
outer one is about fifleen hundred feet in diameter, having the peak, or 
highest lip, on the western edge. Within, it is precipitous, for the depth 
of about one hundred and fifty feet From the inner base, at that depth, 
rises the second inner volcano, to the height of about eighty feet^ having 
within it still another cone. Around the western base of the first or 
inner, the cliffs rise precipitously, with luxuriant pines growing from the 
vertical face. Here vapors arise from many points, and doubtless to this 
cause they are indebted for their peculiarly healthy and vigorous condi- 
tion. No minerab worthy of carriage were discovered. We had been 
informed that sulphur was abundant, but those who descended to look 
for it found none. Here there was a hot spring, the temperature of which 
exceeded the range of my thermometers, doubtless coming up to the boil- 
ing point The view was very beautiful ; the map of the country was at 
my feet ; even the main features of the Lake of Managua were visible. 
Mem, People who ascend high mountains, with weak heads and weaker 
stomachs, should reserve spirits for cases of necessity only — as medi- 
cine I"^ 

Besides the hot springs mentioned by Capt. Belcher, at 
the summit of El Viejo, there are also orifices emitting rills 
of smoke, which, under favorable states of the asmosphere, 
may be seen from Leon. When the pirate Dampier was on 
this coast, this volcano exhibited unmistakable signs of life ; 

'" Voyage Round the World," vol. L p. 162. 


|br this old voyager states expressly that it was an " exceed- 
ingly high mountain, smoking all day, and sending out 
flames at night."^ 

The great plain of Leon, at its highest part, is elevated 
about two hundred feet above the sea ; yet in the vicinity of 
the range of volcanoes which traverses it, in digging wells, 
beds of lava, fifteen feet thick, have been found, at the depth 
of seventy-five Spanish varas, or about two hundred and 
ten feet, and this at a point not the highest of the plain, but 
according to my calculations only one hundred and thirty feet 
above the ocean. Unless there is some great error in these 
data, and I can discover of none, they would seem to prove 
that there has been a subsidence of the plain since the almost 
infinitely remote period when the stream of lava flowed up- 
wards from the depths of the earth. I may mention that in 
the vicinity of the volcanoes, water is scarce, and can only 
be obtained by digging to great depths. The particular well 
to which I refer is at the cattle estate de las PalmaSy eighteen 
miles north-east of Leon, and is upward of three hundred 
feet in depth, the water pure, with no saline materials in 

Much might be said on the phenomena of earthquakes as 
they occur in this country. The shocks seem to be of two 
classes ; the perpendicular, which are felt only in the vicinity 
of volcanoes, and the horizontal, which reach over wide tracts 
of country. The latter are very unequal; in some places 
being violent, and in others, nearer their assumed source, 
comparatively slight. The undulating movement seems to 
be only a modification of the horizontal or vibratory. Some- 
times these motions are all combined, or rather succeed each 
other with great rapidity. Such was the case with the earth- 
quake of the 27th of October, 1850, which I experienced, 
and of which I can speak authoritatively. It occurred at 


Voyage Round the World," toL L p. 119. 


about one o'clock in the morning. I was aroused fix>m sleep 
by a strong undulatory motion, which was sufficiently violent 
to move my bed several inches backward and forth on the 
rough paved floor, and to throw down books and other 
articles which had been placed on my table. The tiles of 
the roof were also rattled together violently, and the beams 
and rafters creaked like the timbers of a deeply-laden vessel 
in a heavy sea. The people all rushed from their houses in 
the greatest alarm, and commenced praying in loud tones. 
The domestic animals seemed to share the general conster- 
nation ; the horses struggled as if to loose themselves, and 
the dogs commenced a simultaneous barking. This undula- 
tory motion lasted nearly a minute, steadily increasing in 
violence, until suddenly it changed into a rapid vibratory or 
horizontal motion, which rendered it difficult to stand 
upright This lasted about thirty seconds, and was followed 
as suddenly by a vertical movement, or a series of shocks, 
such as one would experience in being rapidly let down a 
flight of steps, then declined in violence, but nevertheless 
seemed to stop abruptly. The whole lasted about two 
minutes, and can be compared to nothing except the rapid 
movement of a large and loaded railroad car over a bad 
track, in which there are undulations, horizontal irregu- 
larities, and breaks. 

No considerable damage was done. Some old walls were 
thrown down, but in various places in the country I afterwards 
observed that rocks had been detached and portions of cliflfe 
broken off by the shocks. The thick adobe walls of my 
house were cracked in several places from top to bottom. 
Many other buildings suffered in like manner. The motion 
which seemed most dangerous to me was that which I have 
described as horizontal^ in which the earth seemed to slide 
away from beneath my feet. 

The night was clear moonlight, and it was very still ; not 
a breath of air seemed stirring. The orange trees in my 


courtyard, during the continuance of the undulations, swayed 
regularly to and fro ; but when the other movements followed, 
they had an unsteady or tremulous motion. The water in 
ray well, which was very deep, seemed also much agitated. 
The direction of the undulations was from north to south, 
and they were felt throughout the entire State of Nicaragua, 
and in Honduras and San Salvador, and even perhaps beyond 
these limits. 

I learned from old residents, that, as compared with the 
others which have occurred within the last quarter of a cen- 
tury, this earthquake ranked as about seven, the maximum 
being ten. 

All observers here concur in saying that, while earthquakes 
are common at all times of the year, they are much more 
numerous and violent at the entrance and close of the two 
seasons, the wet and the dry; that is, about the last of 
October and the first of November, and the last of April and 
the first of May. They are observed as particularly numer- 
ous and strong after the heavy rains, at the close of the wet 
season in October. It is also observed that a general quiet 
seems to prevail, for a period, both before and after their 
occurrence.* < 

' Oviedo observes respecting the earthquakes of the country, that "they 
are frequent at the time of storms, — though to tell the truth, rain rarely 
fiills. These shocks," he adds, " are not light, but are real earthquakes, 
very severe and very long. During ray stay in this city, I have seen some 
violent ones, so much so as to compel us to abandon the houses, through 
fear of being crushed to death beneath them, and to take refuge in the 
streets and squares. I have counted upwards of sixty shocks within 
twenty-four hours, and that for several days. During the shocks the 
lightning struck and inflamed houses. All this I saw at Leon, but certainly 
these earthquakes cannot be compared with those of the city of Pozzuoli, 
which I saw completely overthrown by an earthquake, of the same kind 
with those at Leon. If this last mentioned city had been built of stone, 
like those of Spain, it would soon have been destroyed, with great loss 
of lives." 

VOL. n. 16 


It is difficult to discover the connection between these 
different phenomena, but there seems to be a concurrence as 
to the fSacts here stated. It is certainly true, that the only 
shocks which I have felt were in the periods indicated, and 
it is also certain that nearly all occur in the night. Perhaps, 
amidst the occupations and distractions of the day, the lesser 
ones pass unobserved. 

There are many striking features in the topography of 
Central America, which seem entirely due to volcanic agency. 
Those which have more particularly attracted my attention, 
are what are popularly denominated extinct craters, now 
partially filled with water, forming lakes without outlets or 
apparent sources of supply, save the rains. Some of these 
occur on the mountain and hill ranges, and are surrounded 
by evidences of having been volcanic vents. But this is not 
always the case. The Lake of Masaya, which I have already 
described, may be taken as an example. It is not less than 
eight or ten miles in circumference, and is not far from one 
thousand feet, perhaps more, below the general level of the 
country. The sides are sheer precipices of trachytic rocks, 
splintered and blistered, and exhibiting every indication of 
having been exposed to the intensest heat. Yet, if these 
were true craters, where are the lava, ashes, and other 
materials which they have ejected? There are certainly 
none in their vicinity, which have emanated from them, no 
traces of lava streams surrounding them, nor are their edges 
elevated above the general level. Upon one side of the 
particular one which I have mentioned, rises the extinct 
volcano of Masaya or Nindiri, with its proper crater, whence 
have flowed vast quantities of lava, part of which, filing 
over the precipitous walls of the lake, have quite filled it 
upon that side. Some of the lakes are more or less impreg- 
nated with saline materials, but others are perfectly fresh, 
and abound in fish. The burned and blistered walls indicate, 


it appears to me, that they have not been caused by the 
subsidence, or the falling in of the earth. 

Oviedo makes special mention of the range of volcanoes 
to which I have so often alluded, which he calls by the abo- 
riginal name, " Marabios." At the time of his visit, some of 
tliem were active, or rather sent out large quantities of 
smoke. These were probably Santa Clara and Telica, which 
appear V> have been most recently in a state of eruption. 
He says, " About the centre of this chain three peaks can 
be distinguished, rising one behind the other. They are 
very steep on the north side, and descend gradually to the 
plain on the southern. This country is very fertile ; and as 
the east winds reign here continually, the western portion is 
always covered with smoke, proceeding from these three 
mountains, the most elevated of the chain, and five or six 
leagues in circumference. The volcano the nearest to the city 
of Leon (Telica) is four or five leagues oflf. It sometimes 
happens, when the north wind blows strong, that the smoke, 
instead of escaping on the western side, as usual, takes a 
southern course ; then it scorches and withers the maize 
fields and other productions of the soil, and causes great 
mischief in the villages, which are numerous. The ground 
suflfers to such a degree from the heat, that it remains arid for 
four or five years after." 

I have elsewhere introduced Oviedo's account of his visit 
to the volcano of Masaya. In another part of his MS., the 
chronicler gives a summary of the relation of the Fray Bias 
de Castillo, who, in 1884, descended into the crater of this 
volcano. It seems that in his narrative the Fray referred to 
the Historian in such a manner as to excite his anger, and in 
consequence he indulges in several pungent little episodes in 
the resumd, of which the following is a very fair example : 
"It is a hard matter," observes Oviedo, "to contradict all 
the &lsehoods diffused through the world ; and even if sue- 


cessful in so doing, it is a matter of greater difficulty to un- 
deceive those who have heard them. Now if the Fray Bias 
de Castillo had thought that his account woiild one day &11 
into my hands, he would not have said that I, Gonzales 
Hernandez de Oviedo y Valdez, Chronicler General of the 
Indies, had asked permission of his Majesty to place the 
volcano of Masaya on my coat of arms, because I had hap- 
pened to visit it. I have never made such a request; I have 
no desire to carry such arms ; nor do I think any Christian 
would approve of it; the Fray has lied!"* 

The descent of the Fray Bias was conducted with great 
secrecy, and under the full belief that the molten matter 
seen at the bottom of the crater was gold or silver. " This 
matter," he says, " resembles a red sea, and its commotions 
make as much noise as do the waves of the ocean when they 
dash against the rocks. This sea looks like the metal of 
which bells are made, or sulphur or gold, in a state of fusion, 
except that it is covered with a black scum, two or three 
fathoms thick. Were it not for this mass of scum, or scoriae, 
the fire would throw out such an ardor and lustre that it 
would be impossible to remain near it, or look upon it 
Sometimes it breaks apart in certain places, and then one 
can perceive the matter, red and brilliant as the light of 
heaven. In the midst constantly rise two large masses of 
melted metal, four or five fathoms across, which are con- 

' Although Oviedo denies so indignantly that he received the volcano 
of Masaya as a device on his coat of arms, yet, having resided thirty 
years under the tropics, the Emperor Charles V. gave him the four beau- 
tiful stai-s of the Southern Cross as amorial bearings. This method of 
rewarding men was common in the active period following the Discovery. 
Thus Columbus received, as the chronicler words it" para sublimarlo," to 
honor him, the first map of America, — a range of islands in front of a 
Gulf : Sebastian de Elcano, the fii*st circumnavigator of the globe, a globe 
with the inscription, "Primus circumdcdisti me:" and Diego de Ordaz, 
who first ascended the volcano of Orizaba, a drawing of that high and 
conical mountain. 


stantly free from the scum, and from which the liquid metal 
leaps forth on every side. The sound bf these melted 
streams, dashing amongst the rocks, is like that of artillery 
battering the walls of a city. The rocks around this sea of 
metal are black to the height of seven or eight fathoms, 
which proves that the liquid matter sometimes rises to that 
distance. Upon the north-eastern side of the crater is the 
opening of a cavern, very deep, and as wide as the range of 
an arquebus. A stream of burning fluid flows into this 
cavern, which seems to be the outlet of the crater. It runs 
for a few moments, stops, then commences again, and so on 
constantly. There comes forth from this cavern a thick 
smoke, greater than rises from the whole lake, which dif- 
fuses on all sides a very strong odor. There comes forth 
also, a heat and brilliancy which cannot be described. 
During the night the summit of the mountain is perfectly 
illuminated, as are also the clouds, which seem to form a 
kind of tiara above it, which may be seen eighteen or 
twenty leagues on the land, and upwards of thirty at sea. 
The darker the night the more brilliant the volcano. It is 
worthy of remark, that neither above nor below can the least 
flame be seen, except when a stone or arrow is thrown into 
the crater, which bums like a candle. 

" During rains and tempests, the volcano is most active ; 
for when the storm reaches its height, it makes so many 
movements that one might say it was a living thing. The 
heat is so great that the rain is turned into vapor before 
reaching the bottom of the crater, and entirely obscures it. 
Both Indians and Spaniards aflBrm, that since the Conquest, 
during a very rainy year, the burning metal rose to the top 
of the crater, and that the heat was then so great that every- 
thing was burnt for a league around. Such a quantity of 
burning' vapor came from it, that the trees and plants were 
dried up for more than two leagues. Indeed, one cannot 
behold the volcano without fear, admiration, and repentance 


of his sins ; for it can be surpassed only by the eternal fire. 
Some confessors *have imposed no other penance than to visit 
this volcano." 

Oviedo adds, that, although no animals were to be found 
on the volcano or its slopes, paroquets abounded, both on the 
summit of the mountain and within the crater, at the time 
the volcano was still active. The Fray Bias made two de- 
scents into the crater, and by means of a chain lowered an 
iron bucket into the molten mass of lava. He was much 
disappointed in procuring only a mass of gray pumice, when 
he had expected to find pure silver or gold. The second 
descent was performed in the presence of the Governor, who 
afterwards forbade any similar enterprises. The fires are 
now cold in the crater, and the ** Hell of Masaya " is extin- 




Christmas is celebrated with much ceremony in all Ciath- 
olic countries; and upon my return to Leon, I found the 
Sefioras of the city busily engaged in preparing for it. I 
was delighted to learn that we were to have something a 
little different from the eternal bombas and interminable pro- 
cessions. In nearly every house, a room was set apart for a 
representation of the nacimiento, or birth, in which the taste 
of the mistresses was variously exhibited. When these are 
arranged, on the evening before Christmas, they are throwi 
open to inspection, and for a week the principal business of 
the women and children is to go from house to house, to see 
the nacimientos, criticise, and institute comparisons. I saw 
but two, at the houses respectively of Gen. Mufioz, and my 
friend CoL Zapata. In each case the representation filled an 
entire half of a large room. Two or three yoimg palms 
were set on each side of the apartment, so as to embower a 
kind of grotto, covered all over with brilliant shells and 
stones, and draped with vines and flowers. Within this 
grotto was a miniature figure of the Virgin and the Infant 
Jesus, surrounded by the kneeling figures of the Magi, Saint 
Joseph, "Nuestra Seiior San Joaquin," and " Nuestra Sefiora 
Santa Ana," the husband of Mary, and the accredited grand- 
father and grandmother of the holy babe. 


The room was darkened, and the effect very beautiful ; 
for the whole was brilliantly illuminated by concealed can- 
dles, and the figures multiplied, and the perspective rendered 
almost interminable by small", but artfully arranged mirrors.^ 
A railing prevented any one from approaching so near as to 
weaken the effect, or discover the arrangement. At this 
time everybody, whatever his condition, is allowed to enter, 
unquestioned, into every house which has its nacimiento; 
and it was a singular spectacle to witne&s brawny Indians, 
naked children, and gayly -dressed Scnoras grouped together, 
and gazing in decorous silence upon a spectacle so closely 
interwoven with their traditions, and suggestive of the most 
cherished doctrines of their church. SeBora Zapata carried 
off the palm of honor ; her nacimiento was not more tasfe- 
fiilly nor more expensively got up than the others ; but she 
had put a music-box, with a boy to wind it up, behind the 
scenes, which regularly tinkled through its round of tunes, 
commencing with the " Marsellaise," and ending with "A 
Life on the Ocean Wave." This was unanimously voted 
to be about " the thing," and the little Indians of Subtiaba 
tnronged the Coloners doors from early dawn to midnight, 
unwearied listeners to the unseen musician, and no doubt be- 
lieving that the melodies were produced by the extraordinary 
Magi who knelt so stiffly and grim around the Virgin Mo- 
ther. The exhibition of the nacimiento continues for nine 
days, and the period is therefore sometimes called a Novena. 

But the crowning features of Christmas were the ceremo- 
nies on the eve of that day, in the Cathedral. Here, back 
of the great altar, was a representation of the adoration 
of the Magi on a grand scale. Large trees bent above the 
stable occupied by the Holy Family, and the figures intro- 
duced were nearly as large as life. Heavy curtains hung 
from the ceiling upon either hand, behind which strong lights 
threw a flood of radiance upon the scene, while the rest of the 
great temple was shrouded in darkness, or but dimly revealed 


by the reflected light, and by the lamps of the musicians in 
the choir, and of the chanting priests in the nave beneath it. 
It was hardly dark before the people began to gather from 
all parts of the city, including hundreds who had come from 
the neighboring villages. When I reached the Cathedral, 
the entire central aisle was filled with kneeling women, their 
heads shrouded in their rebosos, or covered with mantillas, 
gazing in silence upon the holy group, while the music of 
the choir and the monotonous chants of the priests seemed 
to be almost lost amongst the columns and arches, in low, 
wandering echoes. As the night advanced, the devotional 
feelings of the silent multitude became roused, a hum of 
prayer filled the Cathedral, and as midnight approached, 
many of the women seemed lost in wild, religious fervor ; 
the notes of the musicians, and the voices of the priests, be- 
fore subdued, now rose high and exultant ; and when the 
clock announced midnight, all the bells of the city struck up 
a joyful chime, and the vast auditory rising to its feet, 
joined in the triumphant refrain, " Jubilate 1 Christ is born!" 
A procession of priests advanced, and the Virgin and Son 
were reverently placed upon a crimson cushion, and beneath 
a silken canopy, supported by rods of silver, they were car- 
ried out into the plaza, where the military, with arms pre- 
sented, heads uncovered, and bending on one knee, paid 
their adoration, while the procession moved slowly around 
the square, repeating, "Hosannahl hosannah! Christ is 
born 1" How late the ceremonies continued I know not, for 
I went home and to bed, not a little impressed by the scene 
which I had witnessed. 

But little more than a week after this, I was witness of a 
widely different scene in the same plaza. It was a quiet 
and exceeding beautiful afternoon. An American friend 
from Honduras had dined with me, and we were discussing 
a luscious papaya, preparatory to the aftiemoon siesta in the 
hammocks under the corridor, when we heard a sudden firing 

VOL. n. 17 


in the direction of the plaza. The sound of the discharges 
appeared to me to be singularly distinct and emphatic, but 
supposing that some fiesta was in progress, with the usual 
bomba accompaniment, I made no remark. The discharges 
continued, and became more general, and shortly after Ben 
entered the room hurriedly, and touching his hat said, " Sir, 
I think there's a revolution I" 

"Oh, no, Ben, it is only some fiesta." 
" But, sir, the spent balls have fallen in the court !" 
I had no time to reply, before the alarm, " Un asalto de 
las armas !" was raised in the streets, and the next moment 
a crowd of women and children, terror depicted in every 
fece, rushed through the open zaguan^ and along the corri- 
dors. These were followed by a confused mass, bare-headed, 
and in the greatest disorder, which came pouring over the 
walls into my courtyard. They all crowded around me for 
protection. Amongst them were a dozen young men, who 
should have taken their arms, and rallied to the aid of the 
authorities, but who stood here pale and craven. My pre- 
dominant feeling towards these was anger and contempt ; and 
I directed Ben to raise the United States flag, and stationed 
my American friend with a drawn sword at the door, with 
orders to admit all women, children, and old men, but not 
to allow a single able-bodied man to enter. While this was 
going on, the firing continued, and women, with trunks, 
boxes, and bundles, containing their valuables, thronged into 
my house for safety, filling the rooms and corridors, and 
huddling in groups in the courtyard. Some prayed, and 
othei*s ran wildly here and there in quest of their children, 
or husbands, or brothers, wringing their hands, and appeal- 
ing to me to save them. 

The whole afiiiir was a surprise, and comprehending how 
important to the country was interior quiet at this moment, 
I instantly determined to encounter all risks, and endeavor to 
put a stop to the outbreak before it shoidd proceed to gene- 


ral hofitilities. Accompanied by Ben, I mounted my horse 
and started for the plaza. The streets were filled with the 
flying, terrified inhabitants, who, in reply to every question, 
only ejaculated, " Un asalto de las armas I" and pointed hope- 
lessly in the direction of the plaza. At the first corner I met 
Dr. Clark returning from visiting a patient in the suburbs, 
and tossing him a pistol, he joined us. At that moment, the 
President of the State, accompanied by his secretary, dashed 
past us towards the seat of the commotion. We followed ; 
but the firing now slackened, and just as we reached the 
plaza, ceased altogether. The smoke rose a little as we 
entered, and I was rejoiced to see the erect form of General 
Mufloz, at the head of a column of veterans, advancing with 
fixed bayonets towards the principal cuarteL The next 
moment he commanded a halt, and his men deployed into 
line. He strode down the ranks, leading oflf in the shout, 
" Viva el Gobierno Supreme ! Mueran a los enemigos del 
orden I" in which the men joiped in a half fi'antic tone of 

The soldiers now caught sight of me, and spontaneously 
oonmienced cheering for the United States; the Bishop, 
who had made his appearance on the balcony of his house, 
joining in the shouts. The General advanced, and shaking 
my hand, said rapidly, all was over and all was well, and 
then, with the promptitude of a man equal to every emer- 
gency, detached the various divisions of his men to the more 
important points in the city. The soldiers defiled past, and 
at the head of a detachment, his eyes flashing with excite- 
ment, and every movement indicating the energy of his 
character, was the negro officer to whom I have elsewhere 
referred. I observed that his sword was dripping with 

The movement of the soldiers disclosed the front of the 
general cuartel, and exposed a spectacle such as I hope 
never again to see. Beneath the archway, still clutching 


their weapons, were the bodies of two men, who seemed to 
have been killed in endeavoring to force an entrance ; while 
a little in front, his garments saturated with blood, was the 
body of a well-dressed man, over whom a woman was kneel- 
ing. Her hands were clasped upon his shoulders, and she 
was gazing with an expression of unutterable anguish into 
his fixed, cold eyes. I rode nearer, and recognized in the 
person of the dead man my friend Don Jos6 Maria Morales, 
Magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice, who, at the first 
alarm, had rushed to the support of the Government, and 
had fallen a victim to his zeal. The woman was his sister, 
who seeing him engaged, regardless of all danger, had pene- 
trated the array of combatants, to his side. But it was too 
late ; he could only ejaculate " mi hermana !" my sister, and 
died in her arms. The spectacle was most affecting ; and the 
tears glistened in the eyes of the rude men who stood around 
the living and the dead. 

I turned from this sad spectacle, and then observed, drawn 
up in front of the Cathedral, a body of some two hundred 
citizens, who, at the instant the commotion was known, had 
repaired, arms in hand, to the plaza. This was the first time 
they had done so for years, and it afforded the best evidence 
of the spirit which hope had infused into the hitherto despon- 
dent people of the country. It showed that they were now 
determined to maintain public order, and instead of flying to 
the fields upon the first symptoms of disturbance, to stand 
by their families and property, and defend their rights and 
their homes. 

When I reached my house, I found that the crowd of 
refugees had already nearly dispersed. They were used to 
these things; revolutions with them were like thunder 
storms, here one moment, gone the next. My rooms never- 
theless were still encumbered with valuables, and during the 
rest of the afternoon, in anticipation of every contingency, 
packages of papers and of money continued to come in. I 


will venture to saj, more than a hundred thousand dollars in 
gold was brought to my room, within the space of two hours, 
and chiefly by persons who were not suspected of having an 
extra medio in the world. Experience had taught them the 
necessity of keeping a sum of ready money at hand, in event 
of revolution ; and also of keeping it so completely concealed, 
as not to excite a suspicion of their possessing it. I placed 
it all within a large chest, where most of it remained for two 
or three months, until all symptoms of disorder had passed 

•The city was full of rumors concerning the escaramuza, and 
it was not until late in the evening, when I was called upon 
by Seflor Buitrago, Secretary of War, that I learned the 
facts in the case. It proved that the assault was made by a 
party of disaflfected men belonging to the Barrio of the 
Laberinto, in which is concentrated the worst part of the 
population of the city, under the lead of two men of notorious 
character, who had both been killed, and whose bodies I had 
seen beneath the archway of the cuartel. Their plans had 
been matured with the profoundest secrecy, and evidently by 
men moving in a diflferent sphere of life, and having the 
control of considerable ready money. The time and mode 
of the attack had been well chosen. During the festivals of 
Christmas and the New Year, a large number of cane booths 
had been erected in the plaza ; and the conspirators, half a 
dozen at a time, had entered the square, and dispersed them- 
selves amongst these booths, concealing their arms beneath 
their clothes. In this manner several hundreds had come in 
unsuspected. The point of attack was the Cuartel General, 
in which the arms of the State are deposited, and at the 
entrance of which only a half dozen men were on guard ; the 
rest of the little garrison, at this time of the day, being 
occupied with their dinner. A few of the leading facciosos 
carelessly advanced in front of the building, as if to pass it, 
and then make a sudden rush upon the little guard, with the 


view of disarming them, and taking the rest by sorprise. 
The movement was made, and in an instant the conspiratoTS 
in the booths advanced from their concealment, shouting, 
"Down with the Government!" The little guard at the 
gate was overpowered, and had it not been for the negro 
odicer Clemente Rodriguez, it is likely the cuartel would 
have been captured. He was stationed at the opposite side 
of the square, at the cahildo, with a picquet guard of thirty 
men. Seeing the commotion, and supposing there was a 
revolt among the men of the principal cuartel, he ordered his 
guard to fire upon the confused mass which had collected in 
front of it His example was followed by the guard at the 
Government House and the Cathedral. IHstracted by this 
unexpected demonstration in their rear, the fiaccioaos hesi- 
tated, affording time for the garrison to recover their arms. 
This was the critical moment^ and Clemente, charging with 
fixed bayonets, decided the struggle, killing the leader of the 
insurgents with his own hands. In a few minutes the 
General, at the head of the company stationed at the Church 
of the Mercedes, reached the plaza. But the facdosos were 
all gone, no one knew where. They had mingled with the 
populace, the instant they saw that failure was inevitable, 
and no doubt hurrahed as loudly for the Government five 
minutes thereafter, as if they had always been its warmest 

The vigilance of the authorities was again roused ; and 
lie city, for a month, wore something of the aspect which it 
bore upon our arrival. A number of arrests were made, but 
the details and instigators of the plot were never discovered. 
There were some facts disclosed, however, which would hardly 
be credited in the United States, where foreign intrigue never 
attempts the direct subversion of the government, and which 
I therefore pass over in silence. 

Two days after this event, the body of Sefior Morales was 
buried, with striking and unafiected demonstrations of sorrow 


The corpse was followed to the grave by all the officers of 
the garrison, and minute guns were fired from the plaza 
during the burial. Scarcely a week elapsed, before the 
broken-hearted sister, prostrated by the catastrophe of her 
brother's death, was laid beside him in the Church of La 
Merced. The negro officer, Eodriguez, for his decision and 
bravery, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. 

During the month of November, the Commissioners of 
Honduras, San Salvador, and Nicaragua had been in session, 
in the city of Leon, and had agreed upon the basis of a 
union of these States, the terms of which were promulgated 
about this period, for the first time. The arrangement looked 
to an immediate or speedy consolidation, for the purpose of 
conducting the foreign relations of the country, and to an 
early union on the plan of a federation, leaving it optional 
with the States of Guatemala and Costa Rica to accede to the 
compact. This policy was opposed by the old aristocratic or 
monarchical faction, or rather the remnants of it ; and they, 
it is believed, were at the bottom of the disturbances to 
which I have referred. In Honduras, in the month follow- 
ing, they attempted a revolution, with the view of preventing 
the Contemplated union ; and although they there met with 
better success at the outset than in Nicaragua, they signally 
fidled in the end, notwithstanding that they had the counte- 
nance and support of the British officials in the country; 
who, at this time, both in Costa Rica and in Guatemala, by 
publications and otherwise, not only denounced the whole 
plan of federation, and what they called thjB " American 
Policy," but threatened to break it* down, whenever its 
organization should be attempted. 



Amongst the amusements of the people of Nicaragua, or 
rather of those residing on the Plain of Leon, I ought per- 
haps to number " El Paseo al Mar," or annual visit to the 
Pacific. The fashionables of our cities flock, during "the 
season," to Saratoga or Newport, but those of Leon go to the 
sea. And although the Paseo is a diflferent thing from a 
season at the Springs, yet it requires an equal amount of 
preparation, and is talked about, both before and afl«r, in 
very much the same strain and quite as abundantly. It is 
the period for flirtations, and general and special love-mak- 
ing, — ^in short, it is the festival of St. Cupid, whose devotees, 
the worid over, seem more earnest and constant than those of 
any canonized saint in the calendar. 

I had heard various allusions to the Paseo al Mar, during 
the rainy season, but they were not the most intelligible. 
When the dry season set in, however, they became more fre- 
quent and distinct, and by the middle of January the subject 
of the Paseo became the absorbing topic of conversation. 
The half naked muchachos in the streets seemed inspirited 

VOL. II. 18 


with the knowledge of its near approach; and even my 
venerable cook began a series of diplomatic advances to as- 
certain whether it was my intention " to do in Eome as the 
Eomans do," and join in the general migration. The in- 
quiry was made directly by a number of the Sefioras, and 
the wife of one of my official friends, whose position enabled 
her to trench a little on conventional restrictions, plumply 
invited me to join her party. And yet the Paseo was not to 
come oflF until the moon of March, two months in the future. 

At that time the dry season begins really to be felt ; the 
crops are gathered, the rank vegetation is suspended, the 
dews are comparatively light, the sky is serene and cloudless, 
storms are unknown, and the moon rules at night with un- 
wonted brightness and beauty. The dust in the cities be- 
comes annoying, and trade languishes. It is just the season 
for mental relaxation and physical enjoyment. At that time 
too, the salt marshes near the sea become dry, and the mos- 
quitos defunct In short, the conditions for a pleasant Paseo 
are then perfected. 

The preliminary arrangements are made during the week 
preceding the first quarter of the new moon. At that time 
a general movement of carts and servants takes place in the 
direction of the sea, and the Government despatches an offi- 
cer and a guard to superintend the pitching of the annual 
camp upon the beach, or rather upon the forest-covered 
sand-ridge which fiinges the shore. Each fiEnnily, instead of 
securing rooms at the "Ocean House" or a cottage on the 
" Drive," builds a temporary cane hut, lightly thatched with 
palm-leaves, and floored with petates or mats. : The whole 
is wickered together with vines, or woven ^'together basket- 
wise, and partitioned in the same way, or by means of color- 
ed curtains of cotton cloth. This constitates the penetralia, 
and is sacred to the "bello sexo" and the babiesw The more 
luxurious ladies bring down their neatly^urtainedi.beds, 
and make no mean show of elegance in the interior arrange- 


ment of their hnprompta dwdlings. Outside, and some- 
thing after the fashion of their permanent residences, is a 
kind of broad and open shed, which bears a very distant re- 
lation to the corridor. Here hammocks are swung, here 
the families dine, the ladies receive visitors, and the men 
sleep. It is the grand sala, the comedor, and the dormit6rio 
para los hombres. 

The establishments here described pertain only to the 
wealthier visitors, the representatives of the upper classes. 
There is every intermediate variety, down to those of the 
mozo and his wife, who spread their blankets at the foot of 
a tree, and weave a little bower of branches above them, — 
an aflfair of ten or a dozen minutes. And there are yet 
others who disdain even this exertion, and nestle in the 
loose, dry sand, — a chef^ practice which I should straightway 
recommend, were it not for anticipating my story, 

" The ides of March," it was unanimously voted by impa- 
tient SeBoritas, were a long time in coming, and great were 
the rejoicings on the eventful evening when the crescent 
moon— ^auspicious omen ! — ^revealed its delicate horn when 
the sun went down in the west. A day or two after, the 
Paseo commenced in earnest ; horses, mules, and carts, were 
all put in requisition, and when I took my evening ride, I 
observed that our favorite balconies were nearly every one 
empty. There were a few which yet retained their fair occu- 
pants, but the silvery, half-apologetical "mafXana," — ^* to- 
morrow," which answered our salutations, explained that 
these too would soon flit afler their companions. 

Business intervened to keep me in the city, which, de- 
serted by full half of its population, now looked dull and 
desolate, and it was not until the fourth day, that I could 
arrange to take my share in the "Paseo." It was five 
leagues to the sea, and we waited until nearly sunset before 
starting. Through Subtiaba, — also half deserted, for the 
Paseo is the perpetuation of a semi-religious, Indian custom^^r- 



along the pleasant stream which skirts it, windirfg now be- 
tween high hedge-rows, among the tall forest-trees, or spurring 
across the open "j^Vcorafe," yellow from the drought, here 
passing a creaking cart, enveloped in a cloud of dust, filled 
with women and children, or with fruits and vegetables, and 
anon overtaking a party of caballeros, each with a gaily- 
dressed girl mounted on the saddle before him, with a reboso 
thrown loosely over her head and a lighted puro in her 
mouth, which, as we gallop past she removes for an insUint, 
to cheer " al mar I al mar !" to the sea ! to the sea I — thus 
on, on, until rising a swell of open land, we look over a 
league of flat country, shrouded in forest, out upon the ex- 
panse of the Pacific ! The sun has gone down, the evening 
star trembles on the verge of the horizon, and the young 
moon struggles with the twilight, high and clear in the em- 
pyrean. A mile farther, and we reach a hollow, at the bot- 
tom of which is a stream, and from it comes a confused sound 
of many voices, wild laughter, and the echo of obstreperous 
songs. We involuntarily stop our horses, and look down 
upon a crowd of men and animals, drinking at the stream 
or struggling to approach it, — the whole swaying and incon- 
gruous mass but half revealed by the ruddy light of large 
fires, quivering on rock and tree, and on the shifting groups, 
in strong contrast with the broad bars of moonlight which 
&11, calm and clear, through the openings of the trees. 
This is the grand watering place for the encampment, where 
all the horses are twice a day brought to drink, and these 
are the mozos, upon whom the task of attending to them 
devolves. The fires proceed from rude kilns in which the 
Indian potter is baking his wares, and standing beside a 
heap of newly-made vessels is his wife, who cries — 

" Cantaras, cantaras nuevas, 
Queira a comprar?" 

We passed through the groups of men and animals with 



difficulty, and afler a short ride beneath the shadows of a 
dense forest, came upon what are called the Salines, — broad 
open spaces, in the rainy season covered with water, but now 
dry, and hard, and white with an incrustation of salt. In 
the moonlight they resembled fields of snow, across which 
wound the black and well-beaten road. Between the Salines 
and the sea there is a broad, dry swell or elevation of sand, 
which seems to have been formed by the waves of the ocean, 
and which is covered with trees. Amongst these we could 
distinguish the lights of many fires; and as we approached, 
we heard bursts of merry laughter, and in the pauses be- 
tween them, the tinklinjg of musical instruments. We spurred 
forward, and were soon in the midst of a scene as novel 
as it was inspiriting. There were broad avenues of huts, 
festooned with hammocks in front, in which the Sefioritas 
were reclining, in lively conversation with their red-sashed 
beaus, who idly thrummed their guitars, while the elders of 
both sexes, seated in the background, puflfed their puros and 
cigaritos, pictures of indolence and physical ease. Flanking 
the huts were covered carts, within and beneath which chil- 
dren were playing in an ecstacy of glee. Behind, the cattle 
were tethered to the trees; and here too were the fires for 
culinary purposes, around which the cocinerasj chattering 
like parrots, were preparing the evening cup of chocolate. 
Now we passed an open, brilliantly lighted hut, in which 
dulces, wines, and cigars were displayed on shelves twined 
round with evergreens. In front a dextrous tumbler ex- 
hibited his feats for the entertainment of the claret-sipping 
customers of the establishment, from whom he extracted an 
occasional medio for his pains. Near by, an Indian girl, 
seated on a mat, exposed a basket of fruits for sale, while 
another paraded a little stock of gaudy ribbons, to tempt 
the fancy of some young coquette. In the centre of the 
encampment, under the shadow of a species of banyan tree, 
which spread out its foliage like the roof of a dwelling, and 


sent down half a hundred distinct trunks to the earth,---httce 
was the station of the guard of police, a detachment of 
soldiers from the garrison of Leon, whose duty it was, not 
only to preserve order, but to keep a sharp lookout for con- 
traband aguardiente, the sale of which, except in small 
quantities, at the government estancct, is strictly prohibited. 
The prohibition did not extend to the fermented chicha, or 
palm-juice, which bacchanalian looking Indians, exhibiting in 
their own persons the best evidences of its potency, carried 
round in open calabashes, at a quartillo the jicora^ equal to 
about a pint. 

The officer of the guard recognized our party, and before 
I was aware of the movement, the soldiers had fallen into 
line and presented arms. This was the signal for a general 
huddle of the idlers. I entered an instant and half'-indig- 
nant protest against all demonstrations of the kind, and told 
the commandant that I had left the American Minister at 
my house in Leon, and had come down to the seaasasimple 
paisano, or citizen of the country. The explanation was in 
good time ; it entertained the quidnuncs, and saved me from 
much annoyance afterwards. Before we had finished our 
parley, however, we were made prisoners by my old friend 
Dr. Juarros, and taken in triumph to his establishment at 
the court end of the camp. Here we found most of our fidr 
friends of the balconies, sipping chocolate, in a hurricane of 
spirits. The " gayeties" of the Paseo were clearly at their 
height, and the infection was so strong that we at once 
caught the prevailing feeling, and fell into the popular cur- 
rent. We were speedily informed as to what was "up" for 
the evening in the fiashionable circles. A dance by moon- 
light on the beach, with other divertisements when that 
wearied, had already been agreed upon. These were to 
commence at nine o'clock ; it was now only eight, and we 
devoted the intervening hour to a ramble through the en- 
campments, followed by a train of idlers, who seemed greatly 


to relisli our interest in its novelties. We found that Cbi- 
nandega, Chichigalpa, El Viejo, and Pueblo Nuevo^ as also 
Telica and the other small towns on the plain of Leon, were 
all represented here. The Padres too were in force, and 
seemed quite as jolly as the secular revellers; in fact, a 
thorough understanding and tacit admission of equality had 
put all classes in the best of humors, and they mingled freely, 
without jostling, conceding to each other their peculiar 
entertainments, and banishing envy and rivalry from the 

There seemed to be a good deal of practical fun going on, 
of which we witnessed a number of examples before we had 
half finished our circuit 

We returned to the court end of the encampment in time 
to accompany the Sefioras along a wide path cleared through 
the bushes which grow, hedge-like,, at the edge of the forest, 
out upon the broad and beautiful beach. The sand was 
loose and fine and white near the forest, but towards the 
water it was hard and smooth. Groups of revellers were 
scattered along the shore, here a set of dancers, and yonder 
a crowd of boys engaged in noisy sport, or clustering like 
bees around some vender -of fruits, or of " frescos." There 
were no doorkeepers or ushers to our moonlit ball-room, 
and the dancers commenced their movements to the measured 
beat of the waves of the great ocean, which rolled in 
grandly at our feet The dense background of forest, the 
long line of level shore, the clear moonlight, the gayly-dressed 
dancers and animated groups, the music, the merriment, and 
the heaving sea,T-I could hardly convince myself of the 
reality of a scene so unlike anything which we had yet 
witnessed. In the intervals of the dance, cigars and 
dgaritas were lighted, and at eleven o'clock, when this 
amusement wearied, a proposition for " un juego," or play, 
wi^ carried by acclamation. A large circle was drawn in 
the sand, around which the participants were seated, one of 


each sex alternately. Our host, who, although his head was 
white, nevertheless retained the spirit and the vivacity of 
youth, responded to the call for "a boy" to take the centre 
of the circle and set the " juego" in motion, and was received 
with uproarious merriment. The play seemed to be very 
much after the order of those with which children amuse 
themselves in the United States, and was prefaced by a gen- 
eral collection of handkerchiefs from the entire party, which 
were bound up in a bundle, and deposited in the centre of 
the ring. The manager then took one at random, and pro- 
ceeded to question its owner as to the state of his or her 
affections, and, from his knowledge of the parties, often put- 
ting home questions, which were received with shouts of 
laughter. Certain standard pains and penalties were attached 
to failures or hesitations in answering, and when the interro- 
gatives were finished, the respondent was assigned a certain 
place in the circle, the owner of the second handkerchief 
taking the next, and so on. Some point was attached to 
these accidental conjunctions, which I was not shrewd enough 
to discover, but which was a source of infinite amusement to 
the spectators, and sometimes of evident annoyance to the 
"juegadoras." I was pressed into a place in the circle, 
where my verdancy created most outrageous merriment, in 
which I joined from sheer force of sympathy ; for, like the 
subjects of jokes in general, I could not for the life of me 
see "the point of it." I was fortunate, however, in having 
for my "companera," the Sofia I., one of the most beautiful 
ladies of Leon, blessed with the smallest and whitest possible 
feet in the world — ^for, as the ladies had removed their slip- 
pers after the dance, was it not impossible to keep their feet 
concealed ? Her husband had fallen to the lot of a great 
coquette, to whom the oracle in the centre of the ring de- 
clared he legitimately belonged. 

By midnight the entertainments began to flag in spirit, and 
the various groups on the shore to move oflF in the direction 


of the encampment. Our party followed, for as it is a por- 
tion of the religion of the Paseo to take a sea-bath before 
sunrise, the keeping of early hours becomes a necessity. As 
we passed along the shore, I observed that a number of the 
visitors had taken up their lodgings in the sand, and they 
seemed to be so comfortable that I quite envied them their 
novel repose. Upon reaching what our arch hostess called 
her " gloridta," or bower, we found that a narrow sleeping 
place had been prepared for us within the wicker cage, which, 
although neat and snug enough, seemed close and uncom- 
fortable, as compared with the open sands. And we quite 
shocked our friends by announcing, after a brief conference, 
that we proposed to sleep on the shore — ^that we had, in fact, 
come down with the specific, romantic design of passing a 
night within reach of the spray of the great ocean. So 
throwing our blankets over our shoulders, we bade the 
Sefioras good night, and started for the beach again. The 
encampment was now comparatively still; and the ham- 
mocks in front of the various impromptu dwellings were all 
filled with men, each one occupied with his puro, which 
brightened with every puff, like the lamp of the fire-fly ; for 
the poppy-crowned god of the ancients, in Central America, 
smokes a cigar. A single full-sized puro does the business 
for most men, and none but those aflBicted with a troubled 
conscience or the colic, can keep awake beyond Ihe third. 
The domestics of the various establishments, and the mozos 
who had no quarters of their own, were reclining wherever 
it was most convenient, some on mats or blankets, and others 
on the bare earth, but all, like their betters, puffing silently 
at their cigars. There were a few lingering groups ; here, 
in a secluded corner, a party yet absorbed in a game of 
mante^ and yonder, in the shadow, a pair of lovers, tite-d-tete^ 
conversing in whispers lest they should arouse the paternal 
dragons. Over all, the soldiers of the patrol kept vigilant 
VOL. n. 19 


watch, slowly pacing, their muskets glancing in the moon- 
light, from one end of the camp to the other. 

The shore was entirely deserted, except by the scattered 
alumberers. We selected » place at a distance from them all 
— for there was room enough — and each one scooping a little 
hollow in the sand, rolled himself in his blanket and depos- 
ited himself for the night. The moon was now low in the 
west, and its light streamed in a glimmering column across 
the sea, and upon the waves which, crested with silver, broke 
in a shower of pearly spray within twenty yards of the spot 
where we were reclining. The cool breeze came in freshly 
from the water, its low murmur mingling with the briny hiss 
of the spent waves chafing on the sand, and the hoarse, deep 
bass of the heavy surf beating impotently on the distant cape. 
And thus we slept; the naked earth below, the arching 
heavens above us, and with the great ocean, rolling its un- 
broken waves over half the globe, to chant our lullaby ! 

We were up with the earliest dawn, just as the morning 
began to tint the clouds in the east, and while the retreating 
squadrons of night hung heavily in the west. The tide was 
at its ebb, and already little parties were strolling along the 
beach to catch stray crabs, or fill their pockets with the deli- 
cate ^hells left by the falling sea. We, too, rambled along 
the shore, to a high projecting ledge of rocks, against which 
the ocean dashed angrily with an incessant roar. They were 
covered with the cones of some species of shell fish, which 
half a dozen Indian boys, armed with hammers, were detach- 
ing, to be cooked for their breakfast. There were also 
hundreds of lively crabs, which scrambled into the crevices, 
as we leaped from one huge fragment of rock to the other. 
Beyond this point, and partially shut in by it, was a little 
bay, of which we at once took possession, and were soon 
struggling with the combing waves that rolled in majestically 
on a hard but even floor of white sand, which preserved the 

. . PASEO AL MAB. 147 

water as pure as in the open sea. Nor was there the treach- 
erons nnder»tow, dreaded even by the expertest swimmer, 
and which detracts so much from the pleasure of the ocean 
balh. Bat we had not been long in possession of the charm- 
ing little bay, which we supposed was ours by right of 
discovery, when we observed small parties of women emerg- 
ing from the woods, and gathering on the shore. * W. 
had the vanity to believe that they were attracted by the 
novelty of white skins ; but then, if they had simply come 
to see, why should they so deliberately unrobe themselves ? 
Why, in fact, should they paddle out into the little bay ? 
We modestly retreated into deeper water as they approached ; 
where we were soon completely blockaded, and began to 
suspect that perhaps we had got into the •"wrong pew," and 
that this nook of water, from its greater safety, had been 
assigned as a bathing place for the women I — ^a suspicion 
which was confirmed by the rapidly increasing numbers 
which now thronged between us and the shore, and by 
observing that the male bathers were concentrated at a point 
some distance to the right. But our embarrassment was 
^uite superfluous ; everybody seemed to act on the principle 
" Honi soit, qui mal y pense ;" and when, after remaining in 
the water for half an hour longer than we would have chosen, 
wre ran the blockade, the movement caused never so much 
IS a flutter amongst the Naiads I 

The rules of the Paseo prescribed an hour's bathing in the 
morning before breakfast, quite as rigidly as do those of 
Saratoga a bottle of Congress water at the same hour ; and 
iirhen we returned to the camp with our hostess and the set 
>f which she was the patroness, it was with an appetite which 
KTould make a dyspeptic die of envy. CoflFee, a hot tortilla, 
md a grilled perdiz or partridge, constituted the matutinal 
neal; after which, and while the sands were yet in the 
shadow of the forest, a dashing ride on the beach was also 
prescribed by the immemorial rules of the Paseo. The gaily- 


caparisoned horses were brought up by the not less gaily- 
caparisoned gallants, and the Seiioras lifted to their seats 
in front. Some of them preferred to ride alone ; and when 
all was ready, away they dashed, now coursing along the 
edge of the forest, and anon skirting the water so closely 
that the spray, rising beneath the strokes of the rapid hoofs, 
fell in glittering showers on horse and rider. 

At ten o*clock, the force of the sun begins to be felt ; a 
cup of tiste or of chocolate is now in order, followed by a 
game at cards beneath the arbor-like corridors ; and then, 
when the sun has gained the meridian, a siesta opportunely 
comes in, with " frescos " and cigars ad libitum^ to fill up the 
hours until dinner, a meal which, in common with break- 
fast and supper, is 'chiefly made up of fish, freshly caught, 
and game, filled out with an endless variety of fruits and 
dulces. Besides visiting, and other devices to kill time, 
there is always in the afternoon some kind of divertisement, 
generally impromptu, to occupy the attention until the hour 
of the evening bath. The afternoon of our visit, the diver- 
tisement consisted in a grand search by the police for contra- 
band aguardiente^ supposed to be concealed in a marsh, just 
back of the encampment, which resulted in their getting 
mired and completely bedaubed with mud, before they dis- 
covered that they had been adroitly duped by a wag, who 
the evening preceding had set the whole encampment in an 
uproar by raising a false alarm of " hs facciosos P^ But this 
time his luck failed him ; he was caught by the indignant 
soMiers, and, amidst the roars of the entire encampment, was 
treated to a most eflfective mud bath, from which he emerged 
dripping with mire. He was next taken to the sea, and un- 
mercifully ducked, then brought back, tumbled in the marsh 
again, and, finally left to extricate himself as he best could. 
He took his punishment like a philosopher, and contrived to 
get his captors quite as completely in the mud as he was in 
the mire. This fellow's love for practical jokes, and the ex- 


travagant merriment which this rude sport occasioned, illus- 
trate what I before said of the keen appreciation of the 
ridiculous which pervades all classes in Central America, 
and which is perhaps due not less to a primitive condition 
of society, than to that innate comic element which is so 
inexplicably associated with the gravity of the Spanish 

It is often the case that the higher officers of state come 
down to the Paseo. The presence of Gen. Mufloz seemed 
to be specially desired, as much, I thought, on account of 
the military band which accompanies him on such occasions, 
as of his own social qualities. But the aflfairs of the govern- 
ment were now in an interesting, not to say critical state, in 
consequence of the threatened revolution in Honduras, and 
the ladies had to content themselves with the hackneyed, 
and not over-exhilarating music of the guitar and violin. 
But they were not the people to permit what the transcen- 
dentalists call the " unattainable" to destroy an appreciation 
and full enjoyment of the " present and actual." On the 
contrary, they seemed only to regret that the idle, careless 
life which they now led must terminate with the decline of 
the moon ; a regret, however, wholesomely tempered by the 
prospect of its renewal during the full moon of April, when 
it is customary to return again, for a few days, to " wind up 
the season." 

My official duties did not permit of more than one day's 
absence from the seat of Government, and on the second 
evening, under most solemn promises of a speedy return and 
protracted stay, just as the general movement to the beach 
for the evening dance was commencing, we bade our host 
good-by, and struck into the road for Leon. A rapid ride 
of two hours over the open Salines, through forest and 
jicoral, and our horses clattered over the pavements of Leon 
to our own silent dwelling. Circumstances prevented my 
return to the sea; but when the Sefloras came back, a week 


later, I had full accounts of all that had transpired in the 
way of match-making or adventure. 

• It not unfrequently happens that eight or ten thousand 
persons are collected on the sea-shore, at the height of the 
Paseo ; but of late years the attendance has not been so full 
as formerly. " You should have seen it thirty years ago," 
said an ancient lady, with a long-drawn sigh, " when Leon 
was a rich and populous city ; it is nothing now !" 






I HAD now been nearly a year in Nicaragua, and although 
repeatedly urged to do so, had not yet found an opportunity 
of visiting the neighboring States. At this time, however, 
the condition of public affairs was such as to permit of a 
brief absence from the capital, and I lost no time in prepar- 
ing for a journey to Honduras and San Salvador, — States 
identified with Nicaragua in their general policy, and strug- 
gling, in concert with her, to revive the national spirit, and 
build up again the prostrate fabric of the Republic. This 
eflFort, as I have already said, was opposed by the old serviles 
in the city of Guatemala, and their coadjutors in the other 
States, who had succeeded in exciting disturbances in Hon- 
duras, which threatened the complete overthrow of its Gov- 
ernment. Gen. Guardiola, an able but impetuous officer, the 
head of the army of that State, had been so far deceived 
and misled by them, as to put himself in arms against the 
constituted authorities. He had, in fact, obtained possession 
of the capital, and at the head of a large force was now 


marching against Sefior Lindo, the President, who had taken 
up his position and fortified himself at the town of Nacaome, 
near the Bay of Fonseca. Here he had solicited the inter- 
vention of Nicaragua and San Salvador, which States were 
bound by treaty to sustain Honduras and each other when- 
ever they should be threatened with violence from within or 
from abroad. San Salvador had accordingly sent a consider- 
able force to the support of Lindo, under the command of 
Gren. Cabafias, a distinguished officer of the old Republic^ 
and Nicaragua was making preparations to afford further aid 
in case of necessity. 

Under these circumstances, and with the hope of being 
able to avert a collision, which could only result in eviL I 
started on my journey. It was at the beginning of the 
" Semana Santa," or Holy Week, and by the dim, gray light 
of the morning, as we rode through the silent city, we could 
make out the arches and evergreen arbors with which the 
streets were spanned and decorated, preparatory to this prin- 
cipal festival of the calendar. Early morning on the plain 
of Leon, when the purple volcanoes are relieved against the 
sun's coronal of gold, and their ragged summits seem crusted 
over with precious stones, while the broad plain rests in 
deep shadow, or catches here and there a faint reflection 
from the clouds, — early morning on the plain of Leon, al- 
ways beautiful, was never more gorgeous than now. Broad 
daylight overtook us at the Quebrada of Quesalguaque ; and 
although the dust was deep, for it was now past the middle 
of the dry season, yet we rode into Chinandega, twenty -five 
miles, in time for breakfast 

Here I found my old friend Dr. Brown, who had been the 
first to welcome me at San Juan, and who had just arrived 
from Panama in the " Gold Hunter," the first American 
steamer which had ever entered the ancient harbor of Beal- 
ejo. Here we also found a considerable party of Americans 
from California, homeward bound, "with pockets full of 


rocks," who, taken with the luxuriant climate and country, 
and oriental habits of the people, had rented a house, pur- 
chased horses, aud organized an establishment, half harem 
and half caravansary, where feasting and jollity, Venus and 
Bacchus, and Mercury and Momus, and half of the rare old 
rollicking gods, banished from refined circles, not only found 
sanctuary, but held undisputed sway. They were popular 
amongst the natives, who thought them "hombres muy vivos," 
and altogether prime fellows, for they never haggled about 
prices, but submitted to extortion with a grace worthy of 
Caballeros with a mint at their command. 

The streets near the plaza were blockaded with carts and 
pile^ of stones, for the troop of captured ladrones had been 
put to the useful employment of paving the principal 
thoroughfares. They were all chained, but in a manner not 
interfering with their ability to labor, although effectually 
precluding escape. Yet they were guarded by soldiers, man 
for man, who lounged lazily in the doorways of the houses 
on the shaded side of the streets. I observed that most of 
the criminals were Sambos, mixed Negro and Indian, who 
seem to combine the vices of both races, with few if any of 
their good qualities. Yet physically they were both larger 
and better proportioned than the parent stocks.* Their 
ejdsts between them and the Ladinos, or mixed whites and 
Indians, a deeply seated hostility, greater than between any 
of the other castes of the country. 

I Dr. Von Tschudi makes a similar observation concerning this caste in 
Peru. He says : " they are the most miserable class of half-castes ; with 
them every vice seems to have attained its utmost development; and it 
may confidently be said that not one in a thousand of them is a useful 
member of society, or a good subject of the State, Four-fifths of the 
criminals in the city jail of Lima are Sambos. Their figures are athletic, 
and their color black, sometimes tinged with olive-brown. Their noses 
are not as flat as those of the negroes, but their lips are quite as promi- 
nent" — Ihivels in PerUy p. 84. 

VOL. IL 20 


In Chinandega, as in fact every other town of the State, I 
observed numerous instances of the goitre. It is chiefly, if 
not wholly, confined to the women. This circumstance par- 
ticularly attracted my attention, as it is popularly supposed 
that this is a disease peculiar to elevated or mountainous re- 
gions. The inhabited portions of Nicaragua, excepting the 
sparsely populated districts of Segovia and Chontales, are 
elevated not exceeding from one to five hundred feet above 
the sea. Chinandega is only seventy feet, and Leon, Gra- 
nada, and Bivas, not more than a hundred and fifty feet, 
above tide water; yet in all these towns the goitre is com- 
mon. I also saw several cases of elephantiasis^ but they are 
rare. , 

We spent our first night at our old quarters in El Viejo, 
and started next morning before daylight for what is called 
"El Puerto de Tempisque," on the Estero Real, where we 
had engaged a bongo to take us to the Island of Tigre, in 
the Bay of Fonseca. The distance to Tempisque is about 
seven leagues ; the first three leading through an open, level, 
and very well cultivated country. That passed, we came to 
a gigantic forest, including many cedro, cebia,* and mahogany 
trees, amongst which the road wound with labyrinthine in- 
tricacy. This forest is partially under the lee of the vol- 
cano of Viejo, where showers fall for nearly the whole of the 
year, and hence the cause of its luxuriance. Here we over- 
took our patron and his men, marching Indian file, each with 
a little bag of netting, containing some cheese, plantains, and 

' The cebia, or wild cotton tree, is one of the most imposing of the 
forest's monarchs. It grows rapidly, and to a great size. I have seen a 
single trunk seventy feet long, forty-four feet in circumference at one end, 
and thirty-seven at the other. The wood is lighter and less durable than 
pine, but it is worked easily. This tree is generally used for bongos 
or piraguas. It produces large pods, filled with a downy substance like 
floss silk, which is used in a variety of ways, for stuffing cushions, pillows, 
etc. It may, no doubt, be put to other economical purposes. 


tortillas for the voyage, thrown over one shoulder, a blanket 
over the other, and carrying the inseparable machete resting 
in the hollow of the left arm. 

Within a mile or two of Tempisque, the ground began to 
rise, and we found ourselves on a high, broad ridge of lava, 
which had ages ago descended from the great volcano above 
mentioned. It was partially covered with a dry and arid 
soil, supporting a few coyol palms, some groups of the Agave 
Americana, and a great variety of cacti, which contrive to 
flourish where no other plants can grow. The coyol palm 
is the raggedest of the whole family of palms, yet it is one 
of the most useful. Its flower is the largest and most mag- 
nificent to be found beneath the tropics ; it forms a cluster a 
yard in length and of equal circumference, of the color of 
frosted gold, flanked and relieved by a deep brown shell or 
husk, within which it is concealed until it is matured, when 
it bursts from its prison and shanjes the day with its glories. 
The fruit is small, not larger than a walnut, but it is produced 
in clusters of many hundreds each. The kernels resemble re- 
fined wax, and burn almost as readily ; when pressed, they 
yield a fine, clear oil, equal to the best sperm, and well adapted 
for domestic uses. The shell of the nut is hard, black, and 
susceptible of the highest polish, and is laboriously carved by 
the natives into rings and other articles of ornament, which, 
when set in gold, are very unique and beautiful, and highly 
valued by strangers. But the uses of this palm do not end 
here. The heart of the tree is soft, and may be cooked and 
eaten. And if a hollow or cavity is cut in the trunk, near 
its top, it soon fills with juice, of a slightly pungent flavor, 
called chiche by the Indians, which is a delicious and health- 
ful, and when allowed to ferment, an intoxicating beverage. 

From the summit of the lava ridge, we obtained a view of 
the level alluvions bordering the Bay of Fonseca. They 
are covered with an unbroken forest, and the weary eye 


traverses a motionless ocean of verdure, tree-tops on tree- 
tops, in apparently unending succession. 

We paused for a moment to contemplate the scene; but its 
vastness and silence were painful, and I felt relieved, when, 
after descending rapidly for ten minutes, we found ourselves 
amidst some evidences of life, at the "Puerto de Tempisque." 
These evidences consisted of a single shed, open upon three 
sides, and inhabited by an exceedingly ill looking mestizo, 
an old crone, and an Indian girl, naked to the waist, whose 
occupation extended to bringing water, and grinding maize 
for tortillas. There was a fine spring at the base of the hill 
near by, and around it were some groups of sailors, engaged 
in cooking their breakfast. The ground back of the hut 
was elevated and dry, but immediately in fix)nt commenced 
the mangrove swamps. Here too, scooped in the mud, was 
a small shallow basin, and extending from it into the depths 
of the swamp, a narrow c^nal, four or five feet deep, and six 
or eight in breadth, communicating with the Estero BeaL 
The tide was out, and the slimy bottom of both basin and 
canal, in which some ugly bongos were lying, was exposed 
and festering in the sun. Altogether it was a forbidding 
place, suggestive of agues and musquitos. Ben prepared 
breakfast, and meantime I amused myself with a tame coati 
or tropical raccoon, which I found beneath the shed, and 
which was as frolicksome and malicious as a kitten. Its prin- 
cipal delight seemed to be to bite the toes of the Indian girl, 
who evidently owed it no good will, and was only prevented 
from doing it a damage, by the old crone, whose pet it was. 

In the course of a couple of hours the tide began to rise; 
our bongo was loaded, and by eleven o'clock, we were push- 
ing slowly through the narrow canal. After penetrating 
about three hundred yards, we entered an arm .of the Estero. 
It was wider than the canal, and permitted the use of oars. 
All around us, so dense that not a ray of the sun could pene- 
trate, was a forest of mangroves. These trees cover the low 


alluvions of the coast, which are overflowed by the tide, to 
the entire exclusion of all other vegetation. Their trunks 
commence at the height of eight or ten feet from the ground, 
and are supported by naked roots shooting downward and 
outward, like the legsof a tripod, hundreds in number, and 
those of one tree interlocking with those of another, so as to 
constitute an impenetrable thicket. Bare, slimy earth, a gray 
wilderness of roots surmounted by tall spire-like trunks, 
enveloped in a dense robe of opaque, green leaves, with no 
signs of life except croaking water-fowls and muddy crabs 
clinging to the roots of the trees, an atmosphere saturated 
with damps, and loaded with an odor of seething mire — these 
are the predominating features of a mangrove swamp! I 
never before comprehended fully the aspects of nature, 
described to us by geologists, at the period of the coal for- 
mations, — " when rivers swollen with floods, and surcharged 
with detritus, heaved mournfully through the silence of 
primeval forests ; when endless fens existed, where the 
children of nature stood in ranks so close and impenetrable, 
that no bird could pierce the net- work of their branches, nor 
reptile move through the stockade of their trunks; when 
neither bird nor quadruped had yet started into being." 
Half an hour carried us through these Stygian solitudes ; and 
I breathed freer, when our boat pushed into the broad and 
magnificent Estero Real. This is an arm of the sea, project- 
ing from the lower extremity of the Bay of Fonseca, for a 
distance of sixty miles, behind the volcanic range of the 
Marabios, in the direction of Lake Managua. Where we 
entered, about thirty miles above its mouth, it was three 
hundred yards wide, and forty-eight feet, or eight fathoms, 
deep. The tide, which here rises about ten feet, had just 
turned, and we floated down rapidly, with the current. The 
banks were now full ; the water washed the feet of the man- 
groves, and they appeared as if rising from the sea. Being 
all of about equal height, and their foliage compact and 


heavy, they shut in the Estero as with walls of emerald. 
The great volcano of El Viejo, its dark brown summit traced 
boldly against the sky, came into view, sole monarch of the 
scene, now on one side, now on the other, as we followed the 
windings of the stream. Though the elements of the scenery 
were not many, yet the atmospheric effects, the long, dreamy 
vistas, and the dark, leafy arches, bending over some narrow 
arm of the Estero, left an impression upon my memory, in 
many respects as pleasing, and in all as ineffaceable, as the 
richer and more varied scenery around the great lakes of the 

As we proceeded, and the tide fell, the steep, slimy banks, 
before concealed by the water, began to come in view. Seen 
from the middle of the Estero, they appeared of a rich umber 
color, contrasting strongly with the light blue of the water 
and the dense green of the trees. Life now began to animate 

the hitherto silent banks ; for thou- 
sands of water-fowls, before con- 
cealed in the leafy coverts, emerged 
to prey upon laggard snails, and to 
snap up presumptuous crabs, in- 
duced by the sunshine and the slime 
to linger on the shore, when they 
should have been "full fathoms 
five" beneath the water. Amongst 
^1^1 x^iMA- /^.. these birds I then noticed some 
^^-"^TrJ^Z. - - 1^ white and rose-colored herons, of 

exceeding beauty. Many of the 
latter are to be seen on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, in the 
vicinity of the Estero of Panaloya. 

At five o'clock, during the last hour of the ebb, we ob- 
served that the left bank of the Estero was higher than the 
other, and that the stream had now widened to upwards of 
half a mile, and had deepened to ten fiithoms. It is here called 
" Playa Grande," and here the Government maintains a kind 


of Custom House, When we came in sight of the establish- 
ment, our sailors took to their oars, and pulled towards the 
shore. If Tempisque was solitary, this was utterly desolate. 
The trees had been cleared away, for a few hundred feet, and 
in the midst of the open space stood two thatched sheds, 
elevated on posts, so that the floors were eight or ten feet 
above the mud, which was now partially dried, cracked, and 
covered with leprous spots of salt, left from the water of the 
overflows. To reach these structures, a tree had been cut so 
as to fall down the bank ; this was notched on the upper 
surface, and stakes had been driven at the sides, to prevent 
whoever should attempt to pass from slipping oft;* into the 
mire. As we approached, the Nicaraguan flag was displayed, 
and the half-dozen soldiers comprising the guard were drawn 
up on the platform of the first hut. They presented arms, 
and went through other formalities, in obedience to the Com- 
mandante's emphatic orders, with a gravity which, consider- 
ing the place and the circumstances, was sufficiently comical. 
The Commandante assisted me up the slimy log, and upon 
the platform of the Custom House, and gave me a seat in a 
hammock. Beneath the roof were several coftin-like shelves, 
shut in closely by curtains of cotton cloth, and reached by 
pegs driven in the posts of the edifice. These were dormi- 
tories or sleeping places, thus fortified against the musquitos. 
From the roof depended quantities of plantains^ maduras, 
and verdeSj intermixed with festoons of tasajo or hung-beef. 
A large box filled with sand, at one end of the platform, was 
the fire-place, and around it were a couple of old women 
engaged in grinding corn for tortillas. The Commandante 
smiled at my evident surprise, and asked if we had anything 
quite equal to this, in the way of customs establishments, in 
the United States ? It was a delightful place, he added, for 
meditation ; and a good one withal for young officers lavish 
of their pay, for here they couldn^t spend a quartillo of it. 


He had held the place for three months ; but the Govern- 
ment was merciful, and never inflicted it upon one man for 
more than six, unless he had specially excited its displeasure. 
"In fact," continued the Commandante, ** my devotion to the 
women is the cause of my banishment ; not that I was more 
open or immoderate in my amours than others, but because 
my superior was my rival !" And the Commandante made 
a facetious allusion to King David, and the bad example he 
had set to persons in authority. After this I might have 
left the Commandante with an impression that, whatever his 
past delinquencies, he was now a correct and proper young 
man. But just at that moment the curtains of one of the 
dormitories, which I had observed was occupied, were pushed 
apart, and a pair of satin slippers, and eke a pair of tiny feet 
were projected, followed in due course by the whole figure 
of a yellow girl, of more than ordinary pretensions to beauty, 
dressed in the height of Nicaraguan fashion. I compre- 
hended at once that she had fled to the dormitory, upon our 
approach, to make her toilette ; and when the Commandante 
introduced me to her as his sobrina^ niece, I only ejaculated, 
picaro! rascal! 

There was. little to interest us at this desolate place, and 
although the Commandante urged us to stay to dinner, it was 
of more consequence to avail ourselves of the ebb tide than to 
eat ; so the six soldiers were paraded again, and we pushed 
off, and fell down the stream. As we rounded the first bend, 
we discovered several large boats, fastened to the shore, and 
waiting for the turn of the tide, to ascend the stream — for the 
current in the channel is so strong as to render it impossible 
to row against it. Consequently all navigation is governed 
bv the rise and fall of the tide. The boats were filled with 
men, women, and children, flying from the seat of war in 
Honduras. They gave us a confused account of the advance 
of Gen. Guardiola to the coast, and said that there had 


been a battle, in which the Government had been beaten, 
with a variety of other startling rumors, which turned out to 
be unfounded. 

At six o'clock it was slack water, and our men pulled for 
awhile at the oars. But the moment the flow commenced, 
they pushed in at a place where a little cleared spot, and 
some grass, showed that there was an elevation of the shore, 
and made fast to the roots of the overhanging mangroves. 
The banks were very abrupt, and covered with little soldier 
crabs, which paraded beneath the trees, and scrambled along 
their roots in thousands. Some of the men stripped, dragged 
themselves up the slimy banks, and with some wood, which 
they had brought, made a fire. For our own part, we essayed 
to fish ; but did not get even the poor encouragement of a 
nibble. Yet there were abundance of fishes, of a peculiar 
kind, all around us. They were called "anteojos," or spy- 
glasses, by the sailors, from their goggle eyes, which, placed 
at the top of their heads, project above the water, like so 
many bubbles. They were from six inches to a foot long, 
with bodies of a muddy, yellow color, and went in shoals. 
When frightened, they would dart off, fairly leaping out of 
the water, making a noise like a discharge of buck-shot 
skipping past. They were impudent fishes, and gathered 
round the boat, with their staring eyes, while we were fishing, 
with an expression equivalent to " what gringos !" 

Our boat rose with the tide, and when it got within reach 
of the overhanging branches, we clambered ashore. We 
found that here was an open, sandy space, a hundred feet 
square, covered with traces of fires, and with oyster and 
muscle shells, — evidences that it was a favorite stopping- 
place with the marineros. The sun had so far declined as to 
throw the whole Estero in the shade, while the light still 
glowed on the opposite leafy shores. Altogether I was tiiken 
with the scene, and sipped my claret amidst the swarthy 
sailors with a genuine Robinson Crusoeish feeling. As nighfc 

VOL. IT. 21 


came on, we pushed out into the Estero, to avoid the nrnsqui* 
tos, and cast our anchor (a big stone) in eleven fathoms 

The moon was past her first quarter, and the night was 
one of the loveliest. The silence was unbroken, except by 
the sound of the distant surf, brought to us by the sea breeze, 
and by an occasional, sullen plunge, as of an alligator. I 
have said that at this season, when the grass on the hills, 
with the ephemeral vegetation generally, is dried up, nearly 
the whole country is burnt over. The forests through which 
we had ridden that morning had been traversed by fiery 
columns. And now, as it grew dark, we could see them 
slowly advancing up the sides of the great volcano. At 
midnight they had reached its summit, and spreading laterally, 
presented the appearance of a flaming triangle, traced against 
the sky. So must the volcano have appeared in that remote 
period when the molten lava flowed down its steep sides, 
and devastated the plain at its base. 

During the night, when the tide turned, the patron lifted 
anchor, and floated down with the current. The proceeding 
did not disturb my slumbers, and when I woke next morn- 
ing, we were in the midst of the Bay of Fonseca, with a fair 
wind and all sails set, steering for the island of Tigre, which 
lifted its high, dim cone immediately in front. Upon our 
(J i i xiglit, distant, but distinct beneath the morning light, was the 
• low, ragged volcano of Coseguina, whose terrible eruption in 

1838 I have already described. Other volcanoes and vol- 
canic peaks defined the outlines of this glorious Bay ; and 
the porpoises tumbling around us, and gulls poising in the 
air, or slowly flapping their crescent wings just above the 
deep greeh^wys)^ all reminded us that we were near the 
great ocean. **We went through the water with great veloci- 
ty, and at eleven o clock, when the breeze began to decline, 
we were within five or six miles of the island, which now 
presented a most magnificent appearance. It is about thirty 



0es in circumference, with sloping shores ; but immediately 

I the centre rises a regular, conical, volcanic mountain, be- 

jen four and live thouaand feet high, clothed almost to the 

Kmit with a robe of trees. The top, however, is bare, and 

rently covered with burnt earth, of a. rich brown color. 

t noon, the wind having entirely died away, the men 

k to their oars, and we coasted for upwards of two houra 

»ig the base of the island, before reaching the Port of 

tnapala, which is situated upon its northern side. In placet) 

e shore was projecting and abrupt, piled high with rocks 

iva, black and forbidding, upon which the sea-birds 

rched in hundreds; elsewhere it receded, forming quid 

! bays, with broad sandy beaches, and a dense back- 

.nd of trees. We finally came to what seemed to be the 

trance of a narrow valley, where the furest had been par- 

T reiooved. Here we saw the thatched roofs of embow 

i hats, with cattle grazing around them ; and shortly after, 

round an abrupt lava promontory, where, upon a 


KICaRaGUA — ^NaSrative. 

,. hagc rock, the Kiigliah had painted tlio flag of tlieir cunatryM 
1 evidence of having taken possLseion of the i^and " in 
laine of Her Majesty, Victoria the First," — ^we darted i 
''the liltle bay of Ainapaia. 

Two brigs, unu Dutcli, ani tti« otlier American under t) 
Chilian Hag, were lying in the harbor, which wiis still aui 
smooth aa a mirror, bonding wilh a crt-sccnt sweep into tbi 
land, willi a high promontory on either aide, but with i 
broad, clear beacli in from, upon which were drawn up i 
^t variety of bongos and eanoes, including one or tw4 

little KcliooTiers. In a row, following the curve of t 

lore, were the huta of the inhabitants, built of cane*, atu 

latched in the usual manner. Back of these the gronod 

e gently, forming a broad ridge, and over ul! lowered th4 

Kjicauu of El Tjgre. The moat conspicuous fcalurea of tlifl 

Fvillagc were two immense wnrehoiL^cs, belonging to Dod 

['■Carlos Dardano, an Italian merchant, whose enterprise I 

11 importanee to the place. Through his influence thJ 
Late of Honduras, to wliieh the island belongs, hi 
I tnted it a Free Port, and made a concession of a certai^ 
K^antity of land to every family which should establish 1 
■Wi«i«- -As a consequence, within two or three years, from i 
fl^porary stoppiag-place fi:>r li^hermeu, Amapala had com 
L|q possets a considerable and constantly increasing populatioi 
Iiuid trade, and now bade fair to rival La. Union, the i 
■■port of San Salvador on the Bay of Fonsetva. 

We landed immediately in fi-ont of the principal i 

liousc, which wns now dosed, by a decree of the authoriM 

I tgainst Di>ii Carlos, who had been weak enough to ace 

1 the oHicc of " Superintendent of ihe Island of Tigre," dui 

Ktiie temporary English occupation, and who had been oblige 

fto retire into San Salvador, when it was evacuated. 

found one of his agents, however, a German, who, with hi| 

feimilv, lived in the smaller building, eating and sleepin 

amongst great heaps of hide?, and piles of indigo and tohaeo 


bales, bags of Chilian flour, and boxes of merchandise. He 
appeared to be a civil, well educated man, but wore his shirt 
outside of his pantaloons, and altogether conformed to the 
habits of the people around him. 

The Comm andante of the port had withdrawn the principal 
part of the garrison, and joined the forces of the Government 
at Nacaomc. Ilis lieutenant, nevertheless, " put himself at my 
disposition," in the most approved style; but I made no de- 
mand upon his courtesies, except for a guide to lead ns to the 
top of the hill overlooking the port. A scramble of half an 
hour brought us to the spot. It was cleared, and com- 
manded a most extensive view of the Bay and its islands 
and distant shores. At our feet, upon one hand, were the 
town and harbor, with a broad sweep of tree-tops interven- 
ing ; and on the other, a wide savanna, forming a gigantic 
amphitheatre, in which were gardens of unbounded luxuri- 
ance. But these only constituted the foregroimd of the 
magnificent panorama which was spread out before us, and 
which combined all the elements of the grand and beautiful. 
A small portion of the view, the entrance to the Bay from 
the ocean, is presented in the frontispiece to the first volume 
of this work. Upon one side is the volcano of Coseguina, 
rough and angular, and upon the other that of Conchagua, 
distinguished for its regular proportions and sweeping out- 
lines. They are stupendous landmarks, planted by nature to 
direct the mariner to the great and secure haven at their 
base. Between them arc the high islands of Conchaguita 
and Mianguera, breaking the swell of the sea, and dividing 
the entrance into three broad channels, through each of 
which the largest vessels may pass with ease. All of these 
entrances, as shown by the map, are commanded by the 
Tigre ; and it is this circumstance, joined to its capabilities 
for easy defence, which gives the island much of its impor- 

The view to the north takes in the islands of Martin Pe- 


rez, Posesion, and Punta de Sacate, belonging to San Salva- 
dor; and Sacate Grande, belonging to Honduras. These 
had all been seized by the English at the time of their pi- 
ratical descent on the Tigre. Sacate Grande is the largest, 
and, in common with the rest, is of volcanic origin. It is 
rough and fantastic in outline, and almost entirely destitute 
of forest trees. The scoriaceous hills support only sacate^ or 
grass, which, during the dry season, becomes yellow, and 
gives the island the appearance of being covered with ripe 
and golden grain. 

But beyond the islands, which Mr. Stephens has observed 
surpass those of the Grecian Archipelago in beauty, is a belt 
of mountains on the main-land, relieved by the volcanoes of 
San Miguel and Guanacaure, and numerous other tall but 
nameless peaks. I spent an hour on the hill in mapping the 
Bay and taking the bearings of the principal landmarks, and 
at four o'clock returned to the port, hungry, but too much 
excited by the scene to feel wearied. Here I found an officer 
of the Government of Honduras, who had come down to pro- 
cure additional supplies for the army. He gave me the 
startling news that Gen. Guardiola, at the head of three 
thousand men, was only one day's march from Nacaome, 
and that a battle might now be hourly expected. I had 
intended to spend the night on the island; but this news, 
joined to the solicitations of the officer himself, determined 
me to proceed at once to San Lorenzo, on the main-land, and 
thence, next morning, to Nacaome. But our bongo was high 
and dry on the beach, and we had to wait for the rising of 
the tide in order to get her off Meantime we dined, and 
strolled along the shore to a little headland, which the Eng- 
lish, during their stay, had attempted to fortify. They had 
constructed a kind of stockade, surrounded by a ditch, with 
embrasures for artillery, and loopholes for musketry. But 
in order to save labor, and yet to frighten off assailants, a 
considerable part of the enclosure was built of a kind of 


wicker-work of canes, plastered on the outside with mud. 
It was pierced for guns also, and looked as formidable as 
some of the pasteboard forts of the Chinese, from whom tlie 
suggestion seems to have been derived. The enclosure was 
now used as a pen for some sheep, which the agent of Don 
Carlos had recently introduced on the island. I hope this 
fiwt will afford some consolation to the builders ; it must be 
gratifying to them to know that their labors have not been 
wholly lost !* 

The Bay of Fdnseca probably constitutes the finest harbor 
on the Pacific. In its capacities it is said to surpass its only 
rival, the Bay of San Francisco, which it much resembles in 
form. Its entire length, within the land, is about eighty 
miles, by from thirty to thirty-five in breadth. The three 
States of Honduras, San Salvador, and Nicaragua, have 
ports upon it. The principal port is that of La Union, situ- 
ated on the subordinate bay of the same name, and belong- 
ing to San Salvador. The inner shores are low, but with a 
country back of them of unbounded fertility, penetrated by 
several considerable streams, some of which may be naviga- 
ted. The mountains which separate it from the sea are high, 
and effectually protect it from the winds and storms. It has, 
in nearly every part, an abundance of water for the largest 

' Had I not determined to exclude from my Narrative any extended 
allusion to political affairs with which I was in any way connected, this 
would be a proper place to present a true statement of the circumstances 
of the seizure of this island and Bay by the officers of Great Britain. 
These circumstances have been grossly misrepresented ; and a British En- 
voy has gone to the extent of asserting, not only that the outrage was 
" provoked" by circumstances which transpired afitT the act was commit^ 
ted, and with which the perpetrators were wholly unacquainted, but also 
to admit, in his correspondence with a confederate, that tliis assertion 
was made with a full knowledge of its falsity, and for the purpose of 
shielding that confederate from odium, by shifting it to innocent shoulders 1 
Should self-justification seem to require it, a succinct account of that 
seizure may be given in the Appendix to this volume. 


ships, which, in the little bay of Amapala, may lie within a 
cable-length of the shore. The entrance may be eflfected 
with any wind, and the exit can always be made with the 
tide. Fresh water may be obtained in abundance on the 
islands and along the shores; the climate is delicious and 
healthy ; the surrounding mountains furnish timber of su- 
perior quality, including pine, for ship building and repairs; 
in short, nature has here lavished every requisite to make 
the Bay of Fonseca the great naval centre of the globe. 
But what gives peculiar importance to it, 'and lends signifi- 
cance to the attempted seizure by Great Britain, is the fact 
that, if a ship canal is ever opened across the Continent, it 
seems more than probable that its western terminus must be, 
via the Estero Real, in this Bay. The evidence in support 
of this opinion will appear in another connection. 

The islands in the Bay are of great beauty. Several of 
them had anciently a large population of Indians. In Dam- 
pier's time there were two considerable Indian towns on the 
island of Tigre, and one on Mianguera. But the natives 
were so much oppressed by the pirates who made this Bay 
their principal station on the South Sea, that they fled to the 
main-land, and have never returned. Drake had his head- 
quarters on the island of Tigre, during his operations in the 
Pacific, and, under one pretext or another, it has been much 
frequented by British national vessels for many years. 
Its importance, in a naval point of view, is well understood 
by the Admiralty, under whose orders it was carefully sur- 
veyed by Capt. Belcher, R. N., in 1839. No American war 
vessel, it is probably unnecessary to add, has ever entered 
the waters of this Bay, although it is clear, to the narrowest 
comprehension, that it completely commands the whole coast 
from Panama to San Diego, and in the hands of any mari- 
time nation, must control the transit across either isthmus, 
and with it the commerce of the worli 



A LITTLE before sunset, the tide had lifted our boat, and 
the wind being brisk and fair, we embarked for San Lorenzo. 
Our course was along the base of Sacate Grande. The 
vaqueros had set fire to the dry grass that afternoon, and 
when the night fell, it revealed a broad sheet of flame, ex- 
tending entirely across the island, sending up vast billows 
of black smoke, and moving onward with a deep and steady 
roar, like that of the ocean. Spires of flame, like^ flashes of 
lightning, often darted upward amongst these clouds of 
smoke, or swooping downward, set fire to the grass in ad- 
vance of the devouring column. The spectacle was grand, 
and I watched it until midnight, and then crept beneath the 
chopa and went to sleep. 

I was awakened by a sense of suffocation, and found that 
it had rained during the night, and that the sailors had let 
down the flaps of the chopa, thus confining us in a low and 
narrow space, not much larger than an ordinary oven. I 
hastened to drag myself out upon the pineta. Day was just 
breaking, and a hot, gray mist hung around us, half con- 
cealing yet magnifying every object. I could only make out 
that the bongo was lying high up on a broad, black beach, 
fifty yards from a sullen looking river, whose opposite shore 

VOL. II. 22 


was overhung with drooping trees. The sailors were all 
gone, and I was perfectly ignorant of our position. I felt 
oppressed by a lassitude such as I had never before expe- 
rienced, and longed for water, if only to wash my hands and 
face. The river was dark and sullen, yet it appeared as if 
it miglit refresh me. So I got over the side of the boat, but 
sunk at once to the instep in a black, sickening mire. I 
nevertheless advanced towards the water's edge, and had 
nearly reached it, when I discovered a number of large alli- 
gators, trailing their ugly carcasses through the mud, not ten 
feet distant. In the deceptive light they looked absolutely 
monstrous. I did not stop to take 'a second view, but re- 
treated to the bongo with a rapidity which five minutes 
before I would have thought impossible. Here I roused 
Ben, and then commenced hallooing for our patron. Directly 
we heard his voice in the distance, and soon after he came 
stalking towards us, appearing through the mist like one of 
the genii of Arabian story. 

It turned out that we were about three leagues up an 
estero formed by the river Nacaome, and within six leagues of 
the town of the same name, whither we were bound. A 
short distance in advance, and to the right of us, the patron 
said there were some cattle ranchos, whither he had gone 
with the officer who had accompanied us, to obtain horses for 
our expedition. I inquired with what luck, and received 
the expected answer, " no hay !" accompanied with the 
usual expressive wave of the forefinger. It was certainly a 
comfortable prospect, stuck there in the mud, amidst mists, 
and deadly damps, and alligators. My previous sense of ex- 
haustion rapidly gave place to a vague feeling of injury and 
general discontent and disgust. Determined to know the 
worst, I ordered the patron to lead me to the ranchos. They 
were miserable huts, hastily constructed of bushes and palm- 
leaves, surrounded by a drove of melancholy cows, which 
some fever-and-agueish looking women were engaged in 


milking. A brawny mestizo, with a deep scar across his 
lace, sat by a little fire, turning some pieces of meat on the 
coals ; and a pack of mangy dogs, showing their long, white 
teeth, sneaked snarling around our legs. I bade the brawny 
mestizo good morning ; he looked up with a furtive, suspi- 
cious glance, but made no reply. How far all these circum- 
stances contributed to restore good humor, the reader can 
readily imagine. My first impulse was to shoot a dog or 
two, and their owner in the bargain, if he made any disturb- 
ance in consequence, but thought better of it, and sat down 
gloomily in a damp hammock which I found strung between 
the trees. 

Shortly after, my companions came up from the bongo, and 
the mist lifting, and matters generally assuming a more cheer- 
ful aspect, we took possession of the mestizo's fire, and be- 
gan to prepare breakfast. A few conciliatory reals set the 
women to grinding tortillas for us, and really made the mes- 
tizo himself complacent, — at any rate, he exhibited some 
grim signs of gratitude by kicking his curs from around our 

We had hardly finished our breakfast, when our friend, 
the officer, returned, accompanied by some Indians, one of 
whom was an alcalde, each leading a couple of horses. Such 
horses I They were " caballos del campo," rough beasts 
from the ranchos, long ago mortgaged to the buzzards. We 
had fortunately brought our saddles with us, and were not 
long in getting mounted, and on our road — ^if the bed of the 
river can be called a road. It was a cavalcade worthy of 
Hogarth's pencil, and each horseman laughed inordinately, at 
the comical figure cut by his companions. At the head of 
the party rode our Indian alcalde, with the air of a man dis- 
charging an exalted and responsible duty. He had heard of 
"El Norte," but had no clear notions of its whereabouts; he 
couldn't tell whether it was northward or southward, but 
knew that it was " muy poderoso," very powerful, and had 


vessels of war, and a great many cannons. He led us up 
the stream to a ford, crossing which, we struck into a 
broad path connecting with the caraino real to Nacaome. 
The vegetation in the river valley was very luxuriant, 
aflfording food for many droves of cattle, which, at the 
height of the dry season, are driven down from the elevated, 
parched savannas of the interior to browse here. This prac- 
tice accounted for the number of temporary huts which we 
passed in our march, and which were only built to last a 
month or two, while the cattle remained in the valley. 

The alcalde took us out of our way to his own house, 
which was a rude but permanent establishment, where he 
insisted on our stopping long enough to drink a calabash of 
milk ; I obliged him by dismounting and entering for a mo- 
ment. The women were engaged in their eternal occupation 
of grinding tortillas, and, instead of rising to welcome us, 
bashfully continued their work. They were apparently pure 
Indians, but of a lighter shade than those of Nicaragua. 
They belong to a nation denominated Cholutecan, which is 
evidently a Mexican name, and probably the same with Cho- 
lultecan, i. e., people of Cholula, the place of the great teocalU 
or pyramid. A short distance beyond the alcalde's house, we 
reached a broad plain, covered only with clumps of gum 
arabic bushes, interspersed with calabash trees. These did 
not particularly obstruct the view, and as the plain was high, 
we could overlook the country for a great distance around. 
Behind us was a wide expanse of low alluvial land, densely 
wooded, with the high islands of the Gulf distinctly visible 
beyond ; while in front rose a series of ragged, blue moun- 
tains, the outliers of the great central plateau of Honduras. 
As we advanced, the plain became more open, but strangely 
traversed, at intervals, by narrow strips of lava, projecting 
only a few feet above the ground. Finally the bushes dis- 
appeared altogether, and the plain assumed the character of 
an undulating savanna. And now, looking like some old 


fortress, we discovered, a long way in advance, the low, strag- 
gling buildings of a hacienda, from which radiated lines of 
stone walls, the first we had seen in Central America. It 
was a grateful sight, and inspired our Eozinantes to such a 
degree, that, by a liberal application of whip and spur, they 
were actually seduced into a gallop — which they kept up in 
a paroxysmal way, until we reached the hacienda. In the 
laughter created by this race, we had not observed the com- 
motion which our approach had excited. We were at first 
mistaken for a party of mounted ladrones ; but as soon as 
we were distinctly made out, all alarm subsided, and the 
proprietor of the estate, a tall, courteous man, advanced to 
welcome us. Dismounting, we left our blown horses with 
the mozos, under the broad corridor, and entered the house. 
One half of the grand sala was filled with tobacco in bales, 
from the plains of Santa Rosa, in the interior, on its way to 
El Tigre, to be shipped, via Cape Horn, for Holland ! 

We had not been long seated, before a young lady of 
great intelligence of face, grace, and benignity of manner, 
and dressed in American style, entered the room. The pro- 
prietor introduced her as his daughter, who, in consequence 
of her mother's death, was now his housekeeper. She con- 
versed with us readily, and I soon discovered that she had 
been well educated, and had travelled with her father both 
in the United States and in Europe. 

The conversation turned upon the present political dis- 
turbances, and we learned that General Guardiola, the night 
previously, had reached the village of Pespire, only two 
leagues from Nacaome, and that probably he would attack 
the place that very day. In fact, our host told me his valu- 
ables were already packed, and his horses saddled for flight 
into San Salvador, the moment the sound of guns should 
announce that all negotiations and attempts at compromise 
had failed. But I asked, if you leave, what will become of 
your property here ? " It will be robbed," was the prompt 


reply, " but not for the first time ; the estate has been three 
times pillaged within the past six years !" 

I shuddered to think what might be the fate of the gentle 
girl before us, if, when the worst came to the worst, her 
father's plans of escape should fail him. She said she only 
wished that matters would take some decisive turn; the 
sternest reality were better than this painful suspense. She 
did not care for herself, (and she pointed significantly to the 
hilt of a poignard concealed in her belt,) she had little to 
choose between life and death, except for the sake of her 
father and her motherless sisters. 

It was yet two leagues to Nacaome, and knowing the repu- 
tation of General Guardiola for impetuosity, I felt that the 
object of my visit could only be accomplished, if at all, by 
reaching the scene of action before any collision should take 
place. Our host was positive that the day would not pass 
without a battle. We accordingly mounted, and advanced 
as rapidly as our miserable horses enabled us. A little dis- 
tance beyond the hacienda, the road struck again into the 
narrow valley of the river ; and as we were now beyond the 
alluvions, and entering the mountains, it assumed all the ap- 
pearance of a mountain stream. In fiict, the whole scenery 
had changed, and was unlike that of any part of the country 
we had yet seen. The stones around us were rich in copper, 
and interspersed with quartz, and the granite outcrops here 
and there showed that we had reached the region of primi- 
tive rocks. The mountains were no longer isolated peaks, 
but took the form of continuous ranges, and made broad 
sweeps in the distance. The river too, here murmuring 
amongst the stones, there spreading out in broad, dark pools, 
reminded us of the upper tributaries of the Hudson. 

We passed several houses, occupied only by women ; the 
men had either joined the army, or had fled to the hills to 
escape the conscription. About a league from the hacienda, 
we met a man, splendidly mounted, with long hair, and a 


wild, bandit contour gciicmlly, who was riding express to 
ilie Port of La Union, with despatulied from the commander 
of the San Salvadorean allies in Naoaome. He was known 
ttBonie of our parly as "Diablo Negro," Blai:k Devil, and 

ft twin brother who rejoiced under the hardly less ohjec- 

tionnlile designation of "Diablo' Blanco," White Devil. 

These twin devils were noted in the country as men of un- 

_j>ounded activity and daring, and their^titlea were intended 

ft be complimentary. Diablo Negro told us that an Indian 

nner, despatched by our official friend, had reached Naca- 

pie before he had left, — and that the army was ready to 

jcive ua upon one side, and Guardiola on the other. And 

i he laughe*! outright at his own observation, which he 


evidently thought was witty. The rebels, he said, were 
advancing, and if we rode fast we might witness an ** escar- 
amuza," or scrimmage, such as it would do our souls good to 
see ; and with a wild laugh, Diablo Negro struck spurs into 
his horse, and dashed off for La Union. 

The valley widened as we progressed, and soon a grand 
amj)hitheatre, encircled by hills, opened before us. Upon an 
eminence in the centre stood the town of Nacaome, the 
white walls of its houses and the stuccoed tower of its prin- 
cipal church looking like silver beneath the noonday sun. 
A single glance revealed to us the capabilities of the position 
for defence, and explained why it had been chosen as a final 
stand point by the Government. We could distinctly see 
that the roof of the church was covered with soldiers, and 
martial music reached our ears, subdued by distance, but yet 
having a wonderfully earnest and ominous sound. Our 
official friend, who was in advance, stopped for a moment 
and listened with an attentive but troubled air, and tljen re- 
joining us, begged that we would move on slowly, and allow 
him to ride ahead and ascertain what was the cause of the 
peculiar activity of the garrison. I could see that he 
thought Guardiola was about making an attack, and was 
anxious not to involve us in the confusion, not to say dan- 
ger, of a battle. We agreed to await his return in a little 
hollow, a short distance in advance. lie thanked us, and 
galloped towards the town. Matters now aj^peared coming 
to a crisis, but we had gone too far to think of receding ; 
besides, our horses were used up, and would make a sorry 
show with Guardiola's lancers at their heels ! Our Nicara- 
gua servants were pale and silent, and I vainly attempted to 
rally them into good spirits. It was all very well for us to 
be merry, they said ; we were in no danger ; but Guardiola 
would make no ceremony with them, and the spokesman 
shuddered as he drew his hand across his throat, by way of 


commentary on his own observations. They seemed some- 
what re-assured when Ben unfolded our flag, but yet kept 
religiously in the rear, ready to run at the first appearance 
of danger. 

We waited in the hot sun for our official friend to return, 
until we were tired, and then moved on again towards the 
town. No sooner had we emerged from the hollow, how- 
ever, than we encountered a large cavalcade of officers, full 
uniformed and mounted on splendid horses. Amongst them 
was a plainly dressed, unpretending man, to whom we were 
introduced as Sefior Lindo, President of Honduras. He was 
of middle age, but looked care-worn and prematurely old. 
With him was Gen. CabaQas, and a large proportion of that 
devoted band of officers associated with Gen. Morazan in his 
last gallant, but unsuccessful, struggle to preserve the old 
Federation. I had heard much of Gen. Cabafias, his gene- 
rosity, bravery, and humanity, and observed him with deej) 
interest. lie is a small, pale man, forty-five or fifty yeanj of 
age, with a singularly mild face, and gentle, almost womanly, 
manners. Yet beneath that unassuming, retiring exterior, 
there slumbers a spirit which no disaster can depress, nor 
opposition subdue. For fifteen years he has been conspicu- 
ous in the political affairs of the country ; yet his deadliest 
foes cannot point to a single one of his acts during that long, 
anarchical period, tainted with selfishness, or influenced by 
hatred or revenge. I could not help thinking that, in more 
favored lands, and other fields of action, his noble qualities 
might have won for him a name distinguished amongst those 
whom the world delights to honor. 

Gen. Cabafias was now in command of the San Salva- 
dorean allies, and had under him, as aid, the sole surviving 
son of his benefactor and friend, Morazan. He was a hand- 
some youth, of noble bearing, and a frank, open expression 
of face, — a perfect type, it is said, of his father. He spoke 
English fluently, and at once explained to us the posture of 
VOL. II. 23 


aflfairs. Guardiola's advance was already witllin sight, and a 
detachment had been thrown forward to meet them, under 
command of Gen. Barrios. It was this movement which had 
attracted our attention, and alarmed our conductor. 

A short ride brought us to the suburbs of the town. The 
huts were all closed and deserted. Those within musket- 
shot of the plaza had their walls for several feet above the 
ground knocked away, so as to prevent their use by assail- 
ants for purposes of protection or concealment. The plaza 
itself was barricaded, with embrasures for cannon, which 
were so stationed as to sweep the streets leading to it. The 
sole entrance was by a covered way, so narrow as to admit 
the passage of but a single horseman at a time. The troops 
were all under arms, and the defences were fully manned, 
but by as motley an array of soldiers as it is possible to con- 
ceive. They received us, nevertheless, with prolonged vivas, 
and altogether seemed to be in high spirits. There was a 
kind of pleasurable excitement in the mere presence of dan- 
ger, in which I must own I could not resist sympathizing. 

We dismounted, and were ushered into the sala of a large 
house, fronting the church, and which had evidently be- 
longed to a family of some wealth. But it was deserted, and 
destitute of furniture, excepting some tables and chairs, and 

one or two other articles, too heavy to be removed mth 

We had hardly got seated, and the usual formulas of an 

official reception were not yet concluded, when a gun was 

fired on the opposite side of the plaza, followed by the rapid 

beat of a drum, and the cry of "to arms! to arms!" We 

started to our feet simultaneously, and the next instant an 

officer entered and announced that a party of Guardiola's 

horse had eluded the scouts, and had already entered the 

town. Sefior Lindo hurriedly bade us be under no alarm, 

begged us to excuse him for an instant, and in less time than 

I am writing it, we were left wholly alone. A moment after* 


wards, we heard the clear, firm voice of Gen. Cabafias, and 
going to the door, I saw him mounted on his horse in the 
centre of the plaza, giving his orders coolly and deliberately, 
as if engaged in a review. The men stood at the barricades 
three deep ; the matches of the gunners were lighted ; and 
an attacking party was sallying rapidly by the only gate, to 
cut off the assailants. Having been accustomed to regard a 
Central American army of new levies as little better than a 
mob, I was surprised to see the order, rapidity, and alacrity 
with which every movement was conducted, and was rather 
anxious, on the whole, to know how the motley fellowskWould 
fight, if driven to extremity. But it was soon agj^arent that 
we were not to be favored just then with anythmg beyond 
the excitement of preparation. For while we were helping 
ourselves to the contents of a box of claret and some bread 
and cheese, which the President, notwithstanding the bustle, 
had found time to send us, wondering why the performance 
did not commence, and speculating on the probable result, 
if Guardiola had really eluded the advance, and surprised 
the town — ^a young officer presented himself, bearing (Jen. 
Caba£ias's compliments, and the information that the alarm 
had been occasioned by a petty detachment of lancers, who 
had entered the surburbs in mere bravado; that half of them 
had been captured on the spot, and that the rest were in full 
retreat, with a troop of the Government cavalry close at their 

Not long after, the President and his Secretary returned, 
and I learned that Commissioners had already been sent to 
Guardiola, with a view of disabusing him of certain errors 
into which he had fallen, and procuring his peaceable submis- 
sion to the Government. The intervention of San Salvador, 
and if necessary of Nicaragua also, the President thought, 
would materially influence the conduct of the refractory 
General ,• but he feared, afler all, that evil influences and 
counsels might prevail. It was clear that Guardiola had 


been imposed upon by the Serviles of Guatemala, and without 
being conscious of it, was in fact made use of by them, and 
their foreign coadjutors, to prevent Honduras from entering 
into the proposed new confederation. SeBor Lindo showed 
me a letter from a man named Pavon, Secretary to the 
British Charge d'Affaires, Mr. Chatfield, addressed to a con- 
federate, then under arrest for treason, in which the whole 
plot of the Servile faction was unfolded. This letter had 
been entrusted to Admiral Hornby, commander of the 
British naval force in the Pacific, now on board the Asia, 
eighty -four, in the Port of La Union, and by him had been 
inadvertently sent to the Government. Mr. Pavon congrat- 
ulated his friend that matters were taking a decided turn 
against what he was pleased to call "the false American 
principles [i. e. of union], so industriously promulgated by 
the Representative of the United States;" and after compla- 
cently intimating that the British " Admiral goes to La 
Union, wdl instructed by Mr. Chatfield," he proceeded to say, 
** I think that his arrival there will bring the revolution to a 
favorable close !" But whether Mr. Pavon told the truth 
when he added, " Mr. Chatfield is at this moment writing to 
the Admiral, but charges me to salute you in his behalf, and 
to say that all which this contains meets his approbation," ia 
a matter between himself and his principal. The President 
was naturally very indignant to find that the British Lega- 
tine was the centre of the intrigues and plots which dis- 
tracted the State ; and spoke with feeling of the attempt, 
made at this juncture, by the " well instructed" British Admi- 
ral, to coerce the State into a compliance with demands of 
doubtful validitv, and the surrender of territorial rigrhts, in 
violation alike of justice and the constitution. He very na- 
turally conceived that this rude and hostile intervention was 
designed to favor the insurgents, and procure the substitu- 
tion of a more manageable government than now existed. 
The demands of the British Admiral were certainly very 


extraordinary. It appeared that Honduras had, some months 
before, delegated a commissioner for a specific purpose, to the 
State of Costa Rica. While there, this commissioner fell in 
with the British Charge d' Affaires and his industrious Secre- 
tary, who, between them, prevailed upon him to sign a treaty, 
providing, amongst other things, for the qualified cession of 
portions of the territory of Honduras to Great Britain. The 
commissioner had no power to treat with the British Eepre- 
sentative, and the latter knew perfectly well that no arrange- 
ment with him could be in any way binding upon Honduras. 
In fact, the commissioner never presumed to communicate 
the so-called treaty to his Government; and the first 
official knowledge the President had of it, was a copy 
enclosed to him by the British Admiral, with a demand for 
its immediate ratification, under threats of blockades and 
territorial seizures in case of refusal ! 

The reply of the Government was courteous, but decided : 
it wholly declined to ratify or in any way acknowledge the acts 
of the commissioner, who had not only proceeded without 
authority, but had assumed the exercise of powers prohibited 
by the constitution, for which he had now been arrested, and 
would be tried on a charge of treason ! These things may 
appear incredible, yet they are not only true, but a fair illus- 
tration of the whole course of British policy in Central 
America. It is proper to add, that, at the outset, the Admiral 
was probably unaware of the nature of the fraud which was 
attempted ; for after the explanations of the Government, he 
seems to have permitted the whole matter to drop. 

While I was occupied in examining the papers connected 
with these extraordinary proceedings, Don Victorino Castel- 
lano, an influential citizen of San Salvador, who had been 
delegated as a commissioner to Guardiola, for the purpose of 
procuring his submission, returned with the gratifying intel- 
ligence that there was every prospect of success; that 
GKiardiola had called back his advance, and agreed upon a 


total suspension of hostilities for three days, to give time for 
a definite adjustment of differences. lie, in fact, brought 
with him the outline of the terms upon which the General 
was willing quietly to lay down his arms, and disband his 
men, viz, : a general amnesty, and the immediate convocation 
of the State Legislature, to act upon certain alleged griev- 
ances in the internal administration, and particularly upon 
the pending plan of Federation. The last stipulation was 
made by the General with the evident purpose of relieving 
himself from the odium of favoring the predominant, but 
most artfully concealed purpose of his late Servile allies. 

I was satisfied, from the moderate nature of these demands, 
that all danger of a collision was now over, and that my 
services " to keep the peace" would be no longer required. 
I therefore determined to retrace my steps to the Bay, and 
proceed on my proposed trip to San Salvador. This deter- 
mination was received by oar Xicaraguan attendants with a 
satisfaction bordering on ecstacy, and they would have sad- 
dled the horses, and started at once. But the day was 
intensely hot, and I preferred to ride to San Lorenzo by 

At four o'clock. Gen. Cabanas sent us a very fair dinner, 
and after it was despatched, we ascended the tower of the 
church, to witness the evening review. This church is a 
large, quaint structure, with a fine altar, and some dim, old 
paintings on the walls, which looked as if they might have 
hung there for centuries. From the tower we obtained a full 
view of the surrounding country. As I have said, Nacaome 
is a place of some three or four thousand inhabitants, clean, 
and very well built, and situated upon an eminence in the 
midst of a broad amphitheatre, shut in on every side by 
mountains. To this great natural circus there is but one 
entrance and exit, by the narrow winding valley of the river, 
which almost encloses the town in its embrace. It appears 
to constitute two distinct streams, and from this circumstance 


it may derive its name, which, in the Mexican language, 
signifies two bodies^ i. e., double stream. The town is situated 
on the camino real, leading to Tegucigalpa and Comyagua, 
the principal cities of the interior, and derives some of its 
importance from that circumstance. It is also very well 
supported by the adjacent country, which is fertile, and 
under what, in Central America, may be called tolerable 

From the tower we could discover many hattos, surround- 
ed by small patches of plantains and yucas; pictures of prim- 
itive simplicity, and suggestive of unbounded rural delights. 
But the huts were all deserted ; their owners were fugitives 
in the mountains; and, excepting a troop of lancers, with 
their weapons flashing in the sun, it might have been a 
painted scene, in its total absence of life and action. 

The review, which took place just outside of the town, 
afforded an agreeable relief to the contemplation of this pic- 
ture, so lovely and luxuriant, yet so deserted and lonely. 
When the nlen were paraded, I was surprised at their num- 
ber, and wondered where they had been kept concealed. 
There were between two and three thousand, — as motley a 
set as can well be imagined ; and, with the exception of 
about four hundred " veteranos" from San Salvador, dressed 
in accordance with their individual tastes. Some had shirts, 
and others jackets, but many had neither ; and although I 
believe all had breeches, yet the legs of those breeches were 
of all lengths, generally reaching but a little below the knee. 
There were wags amongst them also, who, probably for the 
sake of completing the diversity, had one leg rolled up and 
the other let down. There were the tall, sandalled Caribs 
from northern Honduras, grim and silent, side by side with 
the smaller and more vivacious Indians of San Salvador. 
There were Ladinos and Mestizos, whites and negroes, con- 
stituting a living mosaic, as unique as it was unparalleled by 
anything which I had ever before seen. To those accus- 


tomed to the well equipped and uniformed soldiery of other 
countries, this display would have been but little better than 
a broad caricature. It certainly afiforded none of the " pomp 
and circumstance" of war, and would have made a very 
indifferent figure in Broadway or Hyde Park. But if brought 
to encounter the realities of war, weary marches, exposure, 
hunger, and privations of every kind, the disparity would not 
be so great. For these men will march, under a tropical sun, 
forty, fifty, and even sixty miles a-day, with no other food 
than a plantain and a bit of cheese ; sleep, unprotected, on 
the bare ground, and pass, unimpaired, through fatigues 
which would destroy an European army in a single week. 
Military success depends more upon these quaUties than upon 
simple bravery in battle. But in this respect the soldiers of 
Central America are far from deficient. When well officered, 
they fight with obstinacy and desperation. In their encoun- 
ters with the Mexican trooj)s sent against them by Iturbide, 
they proved themselves the better soldiers, and were almost 
universally successful, whatever the odds against them. The 
cruelties, barbarous massacres, and wholesale slaughters 
which have marked many of their struggles amongst them- 
selves, have been rather due to the character of their leaders 
than to any natural or innate bloody disposition of the peo- 
ple themselves. Gen. Cabanas told me that he had never any 
difficulty in restraining the passions of his men ; and to the 
credit of that officer be it said, that none of his victories 
have been disgraced by those atrocities which have been, 
unfortunately, the rule, rather than the exception, in Central 

It was evening ; the moon was shining brightly on the 
fiagade of the principal church of Nacaome, bringing in relief 
the gaunt, old statues of the saints which filled its various 
niches ; the band was playing the national air on the terrace 
in front, and the men, relieved from duty, were reclining in 
groups around the plaza, and all appeared peaceful and 


cheerful, when our horses were led to our door. President 
Lindo was urgent that I should stay ; but convinced that I 
could be of no further service, and that our presence would 
materially incommode him, I persisted in my purpose of de- 
parture. A party of lancers was deputed to accompany us ; 
and bidding our friends farewell, and " un buen exito " to 
their campaign, we defiled through the silent streets, on our 
return. I observed, however, as we rode along, that not- 
withstanding the apparent favorable disposition of Guardiola, 
Gen. Cabaiias had relinquished none of his precautions. 
Treachery had been the vice from which he had suffered 
most, and beneath which the Eepublic had fallen. We ac- 
cordingly found picquets stationed all about the town, and 
were more than once startled by " quien vive ?" from parties 
concealed in the chaparral which bordered our road. 

I halted, for a moment, at the hacienda where we had 
stopped in the morning, and experienced a real delight in 
relieving the proprietor of a part of the anxiety and suspense 
under which he was laboring. His daughter pressed my 
hand thankfully when I left ; her heart was too full for ut- 
terance, but her face expressed more plainly than words the 
strength of that filial feeling which finds its highest pleasure 
in the solace of a parent's cares. 

The heat, excitement, and exertion of the day had greatly 
fatigued us ; and as we trotted slowly over the plain, which I 
have already described, I was overcome with an insurmounta- 
ble drowsiness, and falling asleep, actually rode, in that state 
for nearly its whole length. I was only awakened by a 
sharp blow on my head, from an overhanging limb of a tree, 
just as we entered the thickly wooded valley of the river. 
Half an hour more brought us to our bongo, which, though 
fer from affording luxurious accommodations, was yet, just 
now, a most welcome retreat. I lost no time in creeping 
under the chopa, and in five minutes was wrapped in deep 
and dreamless slimiber. 

VOL. IL 24 




When morning broke, we were entering the inner bay of 
La Union, above which towers the great volcano of Amapala, 
or Conchagua. Between us and the shore, at the road of 
Chiquirin, where a clear mountain stream comes down from 
the volcano, and forms a little bay, were the British ship-of- 
the-line " Asia," of 84 guns, and the French frigate " La 
S^rieuse." The first was there on the usual semi-annual 
visit, for enforcing trumpery claims, and the second to watch 
the " Asia" and the course of events in this quarter. Its 
officers and crew, although it was scarcely daylight, were 
engaged in making soundings, and other observations on the 
depth, capacity, etc., of the Bay. 

The Bay was still, and two hours of steady pulling brought 
us in front of La Union, which is a small place, deriving its 
entire importance from being the port of the city of San 
Miguel, twelve leagues in the interior, and the most impor- 



tant commercial point in all Central America. Excepting 
three or four large bodegas or ware-houses, close to the water, 
belonging to the Government, and devoted to the reception 
of goods in bond, there was not a single object worthy of 
remark in the place. It nevertheless had an air of thrift ; 
and a long dock or pier, then under construction, and designed 
to facilitate the landing and shipping of cargoes, showed that 
there was here rather more enterprise than we had yet 
discovered in the country. 

Col. Casceris, the Commandante, had made us out with his 
glass, and was on the dock, together t\4th my old friends, Dr. 
Drivon and Mons. Mercher, to receive and welcome us. 
He was a fine appearing officer, accomplished in manner, and 
in his tasteful undress uniform of dark green, might have 
been taken for an American. He had the good sense to omit 
parading his little garrison, and led us at once to his house, 
the best in the place, where we were introduced to his wife, 
Dona Maria, a tall, intellectual, well educated woman, whose 
cordial welcome made us quite at home. This lady, during 
my stay, was unremitting in her kindnesses, and, with her two 
sweet little daughters, has left; an impression upon my mind 
as pleasing as it is ineffaceable. 

The apartments which were assigned to me bore the best 
evidences that our host and hostess were far above the common 
mark, in point of education and accomplishments. A piano 
and a variety of music books occupied a part of the sala, 
and in my private chamber was a library well stocked with 
standard works ; amongst them I observed Prescott's Mexico, 
Irving's Columbus, Cooper's Spy, a translation of Livingston's 
Code, and Spanish Lives of Washington and Dr. Franklin. 
The '*Espy," of the lamented Cooper, I may mention, seems 
to be better known in Spanish America than any other work 
in the English language. I found it everywhere ; and when 
I subsequently visited the Indian pueblo of Conchagua, the 
first alcalde produced it from an obscure corner of the ca- 


bildo, as a very great treasure. He regarded it as veritable 
history, and thought "Sefior Birch" a most extraordinary 
personage, and a model guerillero. 

Dr. Drivon, who had recently returned from California, in 
high disgust, was established at the Dofia Antonia's, but a 
square distant; and as he had often praised the oysters 
found in the Bay of Fonseca, I hinted to him, before we had 
fairly got ashore, that I was ready to pass judgment on 
them. Fortunately, the Indians had brought in a fresh sup- 
ply that morning, and he sent round a sack-full, which were 
served for breakfast. They were small, compact, and salt, 
and we ate them with the utmost relish. All hands con- 
curred in saying that they were quite equal to the best 
" New-Haveners," and the value of the Gulf of Fonseca be- 
came straightway doubled in our eyes. And then they were 
so cheap ! As many as a man could carry for a medw, or six 
cents ! We had them three times a day while we stayed in 
La Union, and before' we left, I instructed the Dofia Maria 
in the mysteries of pickling them, and she kindly sent 
me a little jar, by the Government courier, every week dur- 
ing the whole of the time I remained in the country. The 
oysters at all other places on the coast are large, soft, and 
insipid. Why they should differ so widely here, is a ques- 
tion for naturalists; I vouch only for the fact. 

During the ailernoon we were waited upon by the Lieu- 
tenant of *' La Sdrieuse," with an invitation from the com- 
mander to visit his frigate, which we agreed to do on the 
following day, and accordingly, next morning we set out, 
accompanied by a guide and Mons. Mercher. This gentle- 
man had been an officer under the Empire, and had resided in 
this country for thirty years, without becoming a whit less a 
Frenchman, and was just as ready to hurrah for a President 
as an Emperor, so that thereby he went against England and 
British aggrandisement, and for the glorification of "la 
belle France !" I had the Commandante's own horse, a 


noble animal, full of spirit, but so gentle that a child could 
manage him. M., as usual, set the town in a roar, by tumb- 
ling from his mule in the principal street ; a feat which, by 
constant practice, he had come to perform without suflFering 
any damage. It was twelve miles by water to Chiquirin, 
where the vessels were anchored, but only six overland. 
Our road was nothing more than a mule path, skirting the 
bluflf shores, and winding over the broken spurs of the vol- 
cano, amongst stones and rocks, and fallen trees, which it 
at first seemed impossible to surmount. After a wild scram- 
ble, we reached some ranchos in the woods, which were 
called the Pueblecita de Chiquirin, where we could hear 
the thunder of the surf below us. We now descended rap- 
idly, and soon came upon a broad, sandy beach, skirting a 
small harbor, within which the '• Asia " and " La S^rieuse " 
were anchored. A bright mountain stream, leaping amongst 
the black rocks, here plunged into the harbor, and on its 
banks, beneath the tall trees, the <!rew of the Asia had 
erected a temporjiry forge. One party of sailors was filling 
water-casks, and another was engaged in towing off some 
cows to the ships ; altogether it was a busy and exhilarating 
scene. We were descried from "La Sdrieuse," and in a few 
minutes the Captain came in his gig to conduct us on board. 
We embarked with some difficulty ; for, although the little 
bay is well sheltered from winds, it is so near one of the 
entrances of the Gulf, that the lateral swell is hardly less 
than the direct. We spent some hours on board the frigate, 
which was a model of neatness and order. The armament 
comprised all the latest improvements, and the crew was 
composed entirely of young and vigorous men. After a 
lunch, which was despatched with patriotic and fraternal 
accompaniments on both sides, I concluded an arrangement 
with the Captain touching an ascent, the following day, to 
the bare summit of the volcano, which pierced the clouds 
above our heads. 


I thought it but civil to pay tlie Admiral a visit, and so 
waving all etiquette, and the captain favoring me with his 
boat, I started, under the prescribed salute, for the Asia. 
The Admiral received us cordially ; and conducted us into 
bis cabin, where we found his wife and her sister, and two 
rf the admiral's own daughters — all refined and accomplished 
ladies, with whom we spent a most agreeable hour. It was 
% real luxury to hear our mother tongue again, from a 
woman's lips — and I regretted that a previous engagement 
&t La Union prevented me from accepting the Admiral's 
kind invitation to spend the night on board. The ladies 
were bitten with onithc^ogy, and had a most brilliant collec- 
tion of stuflfed, tropical birds, which they were anxious to 
Etogment. So it was agreed that they should come up some 
clay of the week to La Union, where I engaged to provide 
prog and poultry for the party. 

The Asia was a great, cumbersome vessel, overstocked 
with men and cows and chickens, and looked like a store 
ahip. Its guns were of the ancient fashion, of light calibre, 
and as compared with the heavy 64\s and 32's of "La S^- 
rieuse," quite childish and behind the age. As I glanced 
through its decks, and contrasted its old, heavy, stupid-look- 
ing sailors with the young, quick, and intelligent crew of 
the Frenchman, I could not resist the impression that Eng- 
land's grasp on the trident was growing feebler every day, 
and that another war would wrest it from her hands for ever. 
The commercial marine of the United States now exceeds 
hers ; her vessels are beaten in every sea in the peaceful 
rivalry of trade ; and France is preparing, if indeed she is 
Qot prepared, to more than regain the glory lost at Tra- 

Admiral Hornby was, however, the model of the frank and 
hearty sailor; and although I thought it was very small 
business for one of Nelson's men, and a Knight of Bath, to be 
engaged in bullying the poor devil Governments of Central 


America, threatening them with blockades and the Lord 
knows what else, if they did not prevent their editors from 
"reflecting generally and particularly on the British govern- 
ment,"^ still, I was glad to meet him, and would have gone far 
out of my way to have done him a service. He was con- 
founded by the politics of Central America, and well he might 
be. What little information he possessed, it was evident 
enough, had been derived from English agents in the country, 
who had resided here for many years, and had become as es- 
sentially partisans as any of the natives — sharing in local and 
personal hates and jealousies, and altogether burlesquing the 
offices which they filled. He had beea instructed that it was 
his duty to be particularly severe upon Honduras, San Sal- 
vador, and Nicaragua, the only liberal States of the old 
Republic, and unfortunately the only ones which had good 
harbors and valuable islands to be seized in "behalf of Her 
Britannic Majesty." But thus far he had had but poor suc- 
cess in the objects of his visit. Nicaragua had replied to 
his notes by enclosing a copy of that article of its constitu- 

^ " A scries of articles have appeared from time to time in the papers of 
Nicaragua, which reflect generally and particularly upon the British gov- 
ernment, and its respectable representative, Mr. Chatfield, as also holding 
up the English nation, collectively and individually, to pubhc indignation. 
Such language is improper and unjust, and I bring it thus oflficially before 
your government, believing that it will make use of its influence over the 
public press to restrain, in future, all offences of tliis nature. * * It is 
my intention to return to this port in a few days, when I expect to find 
a satisfactory answer to this communication." — Rear Admiral Hdrnbi/j to 
the Sect, of State of Nicaragua, March 19, 1850. 

" The press of Nicaragua has not held up the British nation collectively 
or individually to public indignation, unless by the simple announcement 
of such acts as have been committed in the port of San Juan, in the 
island of Tigre, and elsewhere. Nothing can be cited in proof of your 
charge ; and the Supreme Director regrets, Sir, that you should counsel 
him to commit an unlawful act, by attacking the liberty of the presSj whidi 
is guarantied in the most solemn manner by the constitution of the 
State."— i2e/)/y of Senor Silinas^ Sect, of State, March 31, 1850. 


tion guarantying the liberty of the press ; Honduras had flatly 
refused to have an unconstitutional treaty crammed down its 
throat ; and San Salvador had with equal decision declined 
to recognize an obnoxious citizen, who claimed to be British 
Vice Consul, under a commission from Mr. Chatneld. And in 
the end, the Admiral had to take his departure, without hav- 
ing achieved anything beyond deepening the hatred towards 
the British government — a hatred, unfortunately too well 
founded, and the necessary result of a long series of insults 
and aggressions. 

Our return to La Union was unmarked by a single inci- 
dent worthy of record, except the unsolicited presence of a 
couple of pumas, for a moment, in our path; and the even- 
ing was devoted to preparations for ascending the volcano. 
At about nine o'clock the Captain of " La S^rieuse" arrived, 
and next morning, long before daylight, accompanied by a 
soldier of the garrison carrying an immense alforgas, pre- 
, pared by the Dona Maria, we set out. We were not long in 
passing through the town, and the chaparral which sur- 
rounds it ; and then, striking into a dark and ragged ravine, 
we commenced the ascent. As day dawned, I observed with 
surprise that the path was broad and smooth ; and we now be- 
gan to meet numbers of Indians, men and women, laden with 
fruit, corn, and other commodities, coming down from the 
volcano. I was greatly puzzled to account for any popula- 
tion in these rocky fastnesses, when the path turned suddenly 
up the almost precipitous banks of the ravine, and we found 
ourselves, a league and a half from the port, in the Indian Pue- 
blo of Conchagua. Its site is most remarkable. Here is a broad, 
irregular shelf on the volcano's side, the top, if I may so speak, 
of a vast field of lava, which, many ages ago, flowed down- 
ward to the sea. This shelf is covered with rocks thrown to- 
gether in rough and frowning heaps, to make room for the 
dwellings of the inhabitants, which are half hidden by these 
rude pyramids. We wound some minutes through the crooked 

VOL. II. 26 


streets, and then reached the plaza, a large area, in the centre 
of which stands a low, picturesque church, built some time 
in the seventeenth century. We could scarcely comprehend 
that in a land of broad, fertile, and well- watered plains, a 
spot like this, rugged, sterile, and without a single fountain, 
should have been selected as the residence of any human 
being, much less of an entire community of two or three 
thousand souls. Nothing but purposes of protection and 
defence could account for the circumstance ; and although a 
village may have existed here before the Conquest, yet I am 
disposed to credit the vague tradition which I afterwards 
heard, that a great portion of these Indians formerly lived 
where La Union now stands, and on the islands of the Ghi^ 
and subsequently fled to this secluded spot to avoid the 
cruelty of the bucaneers, who, from 1650, for more than 
half a century, infested these shores. Here they seem re- 
solved to remain, although every drop of water for their 
use, except that caught from the clouds during the rainy sea-, 
son, has to be brought for more than a league. The Govern- 
ment of San Salvador has offered every inducement to them — 
lands, exemption from taxation, and other privileges — to 
settle at the port, but they have steadily refused. 

Although it was not yet sunrise, the town was active ; 
and the whole female population was busy with its task of 
grinding and preparing tortillas for breakfast. Through the 
open doorways we caught glimpses of the inmates at their 
work, as cheerful and contented there, on the barren moun- 
tain side, as when the whole broad land was their own, and 
from these rugged heights they offered their adorations to 
the monarch Sun, the glorious emblem of their God. 

Little patches of plantains, and some palm and fruit trees 
occupied the narrow spaces between the heaps of rocks and 
the huts, and completed a picture of primitive life, not 
less striking and beautiful, though less luxuriant, than that 
of Nindirl Our presence created quite a sensation ; and, 



Irfearfulof aQ obsequio, I liurried our guide, atiJ passed rapidly 
I'tJirougli the village. Beyond, the ro,td was moru bi'okeii, 
*ad liuiiflreds of paths diverged from it in every direction, 
came to clciiringa for purposes of cultivation. 


Vherevor tUere were a few si^uare ^trds of soil the trees 

QUfihes had been removed, au(l maize had been planted 

; were al.^o some considerable openmga, covered with 

iltuinpa and fallen trees, reaemhliog those which the traveller 

lonstantly encounters on our frontiers. They recalled to 

bind my border rambles, thousands of miles to the nortb- 

; but I listened in vain for the solitudes to echo back 

6 clear, ringing blows of the settler's axe. 

i All around us were huge volcanic rocks, and we wound 

fcr two hours through labyrinthine ravines, dark with 

litrecs, constantly nscending, but yet unable to see beyond the 

Bbtngled verdure of the forest. Finally, however, the trees 

me fewer, and at eight o'clock we had emerged beyond 

nttie Pjrt'ste, and stood upon the gras.'fy, sforiaceous slope of 

frvokaoo. Aod although the aummit ae«ned mom di»- 


tant than ever, yet our position overlooked an almost inter- 
minable expanse of country. The Bay of La Union was 
mapped at our feet, and we could trace its esteros, gleaming 
like silver threads, amidst the level, green alluvions. To our 
left was the broad valley of San Miguel, but it was concealed 
from view by a mist, like an ocean of milk, above which, 
island-like, to mid-heaven, towered the great volcano of San 
Miguel — with the exception of Ometepec, the most regular in 
its outlines of any in Central America. From its summit 
rose a plume of white smoke, opalescent in the sun.* 

We halted for a quarter of an hour in silent admiratioD, 
and then resumed our course. We were on one of the bare 
ribs of the volcano, with deep ravines on either side, up 
which the forests, reduced to a narrow line of trees, extended 
for some distance farther. These spurs or ribs of the 
mountain are covered with long, coarse grass, which gives 
them an appearance of great smoothness ; but it only conceals 
sharp, angular rocks, and a treacherous scoriaceous soil. 
Our path here, therefore, was more toilsome than in the 
forest; and as we advanced, the mules suflFered greatly. I 
had given the Captain his choice of animals at the start, and 
he had selected a large, sleek, gentle mule, leaving me a 
little, black macho, a villanous hard trotter, \'icious, but 
tough as iron. The Captain had kept ahead while we had a 
path, and seemed to have it very comfortable; but now, 
when the ascent commenced in earnest, the black macho left 

» The port of. La Union is forty-five miles distant, in a right line, from 
the volcano of Coseguina, and on the occasion of its eruption, was deserted 
by the entire population, who fled in dismay to San Miguel The dark- 
ness was so great that they were obliged to carry torches, which, how- 
ever, gave no hght, except for two or three yards around them. The 
terrified inhabitants, some on foot and others mounted, were follow«d by 
their equally terrified cattle, and even wild beasts, tame with fear, joined 
in the unearthly procession, while birds lit upon the travellers in a&ight, 
and would not be driven away. 


him fer beliind. The Captain spurred, and whipped, and 
"sacre'd" in vain; his mule finally came to a dead halt. We 
were now at the head of the ravines, whence the cone of the 
volcano rose sheer and regular as the pyramids. Upon one 
side of our path, and five or six hundred feet below us, was 
a belt of tall and beautiful fir trees, amongst which we dis- 
covered, with our glasses, a party of Indians collecting 
branches, wherewith to decorate the streets and churches, 
during the Semana Santa. As we acsended, we had startled 
many deer, and numbers of them now stood, with heads 
elevated and ears thrown forward, contemplating us from a 
distance. There were also hundreds of wild turkeys, and 
while the Captain was resting his mule, I pursued a flock of 
them, and killed two, with as many discharges of my pistol ; 
no great feat, by the way, for they were so tame that I came 
within fifty feet of them. 

Again we started, and now the narrow path wound zigzag 
up the face of the mountain, so that in riding along we could 
almost lay our hands on the turn next above us. I let my 
macho take his course, and he picked his way as uncon- 
cernedly as if traversing a plain. I only feared that the 
indurated scoriae might give way beneath his feet, and I 
shuddered, as I glanced down the steeps, to think what would 
be the inevitable result. And thus we toiled on, slowly and 
painfully, winding up slopes which no human being could 
have ascended directly. Finally we reached a spot where, 
some time or other, there had been a slide of the earth, forming 
a narrow shelf; and here the Captain's mule again came to a 
dead halt Whip nor spur could move him. Finally, how- 
ever, I took hold of his halter, and succeeded in leading him 
into the narrow path, when he went on as before. At nine 
o'clock, we had reached the summit of the first peak, and 
stood upon the edge of a great funnel-shaped hollow, lined 
with grass, which had been an ancient vent. Its walls upon 
one side had been broken down, and we could see, far below, 


the rough outlines of the lava current which had flowed from 
it into the ocean. There were a number of these vents at 
various points, but the crater was still above ns. In half an 
hour we reached its edge, and wound down its ragged side 
to a broad plain at its bottom. It was an immense amphi- 
theatre, walled with precipitous cliffs. The eastern side was 
elevated, and covered with a forest of beautiful pines ; its 
western depressed, with a spring of water at its lowest part, 
surrounded with a variety of trees and vines, constituting a 
sort of jungle, much frequented, our guide told us, by wild 
beasts. The rest of the area was covered with grass, now 
sere and yellow from the long drought. It was a singular 
spot, with no horizon but the rocky rim of the crater, and no 
view except above, where the sun shone down blindingly 
from a cloudless sky. We stood still, and like the pulsations 
of the earth's great heart, we could hear the waters of the 
Pacific beating at the base of the mountain. I thought of a 
Milton prisoned here, face to face with heaven, listening to 
the deep utterances of the ocean, and striking the strings of 
his awful lyre, to the majestic measure of the sea ! 

" Let us go," said the Captain with a shudder ; " this is 
terrible." We scrambled out of the crater on the side op- 
posite from where we entered, towards a yet higher peak of 
scoriae, connected by a narrow ridge with the body of the 
mountain. Upon that peak, whose feet were planted in the 
sea, the warder at the entrance of the Bay, there was a 
kind of look-out established by the Government, with a flag- 
staff, and a series of telegraphic signals, to convey intelli- 
gence to the port. This was the point which we were most 
anxious to reach, and from whence I anticipated being able 
to map out the entire Gulf. It may seem hardly possible, 
but the narrow ridge connecting the two peaks was barely 
wide enough for a mule path ; it was like walking on the 
ridge of a house. The Captain refused to ride along it, and 
in order to keep him company, I also dismounted, and we pro- 


ceeded on foot. It was past ten o'clock when we reached 
the summit of the peak ; but although almost exhausted by 
our perhaps unnecessary exertions, we lost all sense of 
fatigue in the magnificence and extent of the prospect, which 
was bounded only by the great dividing ridge of the Cordille- 
ras, looking like a faint cloud in the distance, upon one hand, 
and by the ocean horizon upon the other. The Gulf with 
its islands was revealed for its whole extent at a single glance, 
and it seemed as if we could almost look into the great Lake 
of Nicaragua, whose mountain-framed basin stretched away 
in illimitable perspective. 

At the foot of the flag-staff was a little hut, half excavated 
in the earth, its roof heavily loaded with stones, to prevent 
it from being swept away by the winds. Here we found a 
mian, a broad-shouldered, merry Indian, who was the watcher 
or sentinel, and who was greatly rejoiced to receive us. He 
had been "observador" here for six years, and we were the 
first blancos who had ascended during that period. And he 
produced his glass and made himself almost annoying in his 
zeal to point out to us the features of interest surrounding 
the Gulf. 

Meantime our guide reached us, with the mules and the 
alforgas. Amongst our equipments was the flag of the 
United States, which was at once run up to the top of the 
signal post and answered from the port and the French frig- 
ate. " I accept the omen," said the Captain gravely, and as 
I then thought and still believe prophetically; "that flag 
will soon be planted here en permanence^ the symbol of 
dominion over two seas, and of a power the greatest the 
world has ever seen." 

The peak on which we stood seemed to have been formed 
in great part of scoriae and other materials thrown out from 
the principal crater. It was a sharp cone, and the rounded 
summit was not more than sixty feet across. In fact, there 
was barely room for ourselves, the flag-staff, the hut, and 


the mules. It was now midday, and the thermometer mark- 
ed only 68® of Fahrenheit, while at the same hour it stood 
at 86® at the port, a diflference of sixteen degrees. 

We had been nearly six hours in ascending, and after 
the novelty of the scene was a little over, we got beneath 
the hut, and helped ourselves to the plentiful contents of our 
guide's alforgas, and then, without intending it, both fell 
asleep. I was awakened by the Captain, who looked pinched, 
and chilly, and rising, found myself uncomfortably cold. We 
crept outside ; but in little more than an hour, everything 
had undergone a total change. Above and around us the 
sun was shining clearly, except when a thin rift of drizzling 
cloud, rapidly sweeping by, half-hid us from each other's 
view. But below and around us, there was only a heaving 
ocean of milky white clouds — now swelling upwards to our 
very feet, and then sinking down so as to reveal long reaches 
of the bare mountain side. A current of sea air, saturated 
with moisture, sweeping past, had encountered the volcano, 
and become partially condensed in its cooler atmosphere. I 
asked the observador if it was common, and he said it hap- 
pened almost daily ; but that sometimes the wind was not 
strong enough to sweep the mist away, and then he had sat 
here for hours, muy triste, very melancholy, in the gloonL 
It was then an excellent time to pray, he added, with a 

In an hour the mists had dissipated, and the view was 
again unobstructed. And, having taken the bearings of the 
principal landmarks, the Captain and myself with the aid of 
the observador and our guide, amused ourselves by loosening 
rocks, and starting them down the side of the cone. They 
went leaping down, dashing the scoriae on all sides, like spray, 
in their bounds; and, when they reached the belt of forest, 
we could see the trees bow down before them like grass be- 
fore the mower's scythe. One of these rocks, which we 
started with diflSculty, must have weighed upwards of a ton ; 


and we afterwards learned that it had been dashed to pieces 
within only a quarter of a mile of the Bay of Chiquirin. 

At three o'clock, the observador having volunteered 
to show us a better route, we started on our return. He 
took us by a path running laterally down the side of the 
ridge connecting the twb peaks to which I have referred, so 
steep that we repented having undertaken it, but so narrow, 
at the same time, as to render turning about impossible. In 
places my macho braced his feet and slid down a hundred 
feet at a time. It was " neck or nothing." The Captain 
was behind, but how he got along I did not stop to inquire. 
It was one of those occasions when every man looks out for 
himself. After fifl;een or twenty minutes of this kind of 
progress, my hair was less disposed to the perpendicular, 
and I began to have great faith in my macho. I was only 
nervous about my saddle girths. 

In three-quarters of an hour, during which time we had 
descended more than two thousand feet, we reached the 
head of one of the principal ravines which furrow the moim- 
tain. Here was a narrow shelf, where was built the hatto of 
Juan, the observador, and where his family resided. Here, 
too, completely embowered amongst the trees, with a large 
reservoir, fifty feet long, cut by the ancients in the rock, was 
a copious spring, called Yololtoca ; the ground all around it 
was paved with flat stones, and the approaches were pro- 
tected by masonry. I was surprised to learn that it was 
from this spring that the inhabitants of Conchagua obtained 
now, as they had from time immemorial, their principal sup- 
ply of water. It is folly two-thirds of the distance up the 
volcano, and more than a league from the town. While we 
stood beside the reservoir, to allow our mules to drink, a 
troop of girls came toiling up a flight of steps near by. They 
were from the village, and, like the aguadoras of Masaya, had 
little sacks strapped over their shoulders, wherein to carry 
VOL. u. 26 


their water jars, when weary of supporting them on their 

After resting a few minutes, we continued our descent. 
The path was now wider and better, but in some places, 
where the feet of the aguadoras had worn narrow steps in 
the rock, which the mules were obliged scrupulously to fol- 
low, exceedingly difficult. An occasional fallen tree ob- 
structed our course, over which we had great trouble in 
forcing our mules. But after a deal of excitement, and 
whipping and hallooing, half an hour before sunset, we once 
more reached the village of Conchagua. As we approached, 
we had observed a man, stationed on a high rock, with an 
immense rattle, like those anciently used by watchmen in 
our cities. The moment he saw us, he sprung it, and leap- 
ing down, from rock to rock, disappeared in the direction 
of the town. Nearing the plaza, we saw the result ; men 
and women, all gayly dressed, were hurrying in that direc- 
tion, and there was evidently great excitement At first, 
as this was holy week, I thought some of its ceremonies 
were in progress ; but when I saw a couple of alcaldes, with 
heads uncovered, and holding aloft their wands of office, 
advance to meet us, the awful truth that we had unwit- 
tingly fallen into the jaws of an obsequio, was forced upon 
me. The Captain rode up, in evident surprise, and inquired 
what I supposed the Indians wanted. I professed ignorance. 
Meantime the alcaldes had planted themselves in &ont of 
my macho, and one of them, without so much as "by your 
leave " had taken the bridle in his hands, while the other 
commenced reading an order of the municipality, felicitating 
the representative of the Great and Powerful Bepublic of 
El Norte on his arrival in the loyal Pueblo of Conchagua, 
and inviting him to a convite^ which, he added in paren- 
thesis, was then ready in the cabildo ; and concluding with 
"Dios, Union, Libertadl" and "Viva la Eepublica del 
Nortel" In the latter the people all joined. I thanked 


them in corresponding hyperbolical phrase, and then intro- 
duced to them my friend, the Captain, as an oflBicer of another 
great Republic; whereupon they uttered another roimd of 
vivas, — not for the Republic of France, but " El Amigo del 
Ministro del Norte 1 " This over, we were marched, with an 
alcalde on each side, to the cabildo. It was a large building, 
with a mud floor, and a double row of benches extending 
around it, close to the wall. At one end was an elevated 
platform, upon which were three or four elaborately carved 
and antiquated chairs and a desk, where the alcaldes held 
their courts, and administered justice ; and at the other end 
a pair of stocks, wherein refractory criminals were confined, 
when occasion required. Against the wall, above the seats 
of the alcaldes, hung the fragments of an ancient flag ; but 
no one could tell me its history; it was "muy, muy an- 
tiguo 1 " very, very old. 

In the centre of the apartment was a table for six ; the 
Captain, the two principal alcaldes, the bastonero or marshal, 
the cura, and myself. This part of the obsequio was unob- 
jectionable, and the distinguished guests performed their 
parts with spirit, and to the great admiration of the specta- 
tors. Commend me to an ascent of the volcano of Conchagua 
for an appetite I Before we had half finished, it grew dark, 
and a dozen boys holding torches were introduced and sta- 
tioned on the alcalde^s platform. There they stood like 
bronze statues, without moving, until we had finished. It 
was the most extraordinary meal of my life ; and I experi- 
enced a singular sensation when I glanced around upon the 
swarthy, earnest faces of the Indians, rank on rank, only half 
revealed by the light of the torches, and reflected that here, 
in the volcanic fastnesses of San Salvador, amongst a people 
in whose veins not a drop of white blood flowed, the de- 
scendants of those who had fought against Cortez and Al- 
varado, the name of an American was not only a shield of 
security, but a passport to the rudest heart. It sounded 


strangely to hear them talk of Washington as the political 
regenerator, not of his own country alone, but of the conti- 
nent and the world. 

We returned to La Union by moonlight. During the day 
my companions, according to arrangement, had started on 
their return to Nicaragua, and I was now left alone with 
Ben. I had determined to await here the result of affairs at 
Nacaome, from whence we had not as yet received any in- 
telligence. That very night a reinforcement from San 
Miguel marched silently through the streets of La Union, 
and in less than half an hour were embarked on their way 
to San Lorenzo. It was a forced march, and the practical 
reply to the despatches borne by " Diablo Negro." 

The day following was the holiest day of the Holy Week, 
and was ushered in with the firing of guns in the little plaza. 
The streets all wore their liveliest garb, and business of every 
kind was suspended. At nine o'clock the inhabitants all 
flocked to the church, whither I followed. But it was 
crowded to suffocation, and I was neither Christian nor curi- 
ous enough to remain ; accordingly I joined Dr. Drivon, 
at his rooms at the Dofia Antonia's, from whence the whole 
out-door performances could be witnessed. At eleven 
o'clock the crowd emerged into the plaza, where a procession, 
preceded by some musicians, was formed. In advance went 
twenty or thirty men and boys, half naked, and painted in a 
frightful manner, each bearing a wooden spear ; these were 
supposed to represent Jews, Moors, and Devils, who are 
all classed in the same pleasant category. They engaged in 
mimic fights, and dashed through the streets, clearing every 
living thing before the procession, and by their fantastic 
actions creating great merriment. Then followed twelve 
boys, some white and others dark, to represent the apostles, 
and two sweet little girls, dressed in gauze, personifying the 
Marys. Joseph of Arimathea, a meztizo, staggered beneath 
a heavy cross, and on a bier, borne by six young men, was 



a wax figure representing Christ. Priests and chanters sur- 
rounded it, and a crowd of women and children, with palm 
branches, followed. The procession halted at every corner, 
while rockets were let oflf in the plaza. It was an incongru- 
ous, typical ceremony, allusive apparently to the crucifixion 
and burial of Christ. I asked Dona Antonia's son, who had 
been one of the apostles, on his return to the house, what it 
meant. " Oh, nothing," he replied briskly, " only Christ is 
dead, and we shall have no God for three days !" From this 
reply I inferred that it had produced no very lasting irapres- 
sion upon the minds of the apostles, whatever its effect upon 
the other participants. 

Next morning I was roused at daylight by the firing of guns, 
but supposing that it only part of the fiesta, I went to sleep 
again. When I rose for breakfast, however, the Comman- 
dante placed in my hands an open letter from Gen. Cabanas, 
announcing the surrender of Gen. Guardiola, on substantially 
the basis before proposed, and the immediate dispersal of his 
troops. In less than one year after, Guardiola was in the 
field, as the aid of the President of San Salvador, against the 
very Serviles who had decoyed him into overt acts against 
his own government 1 Thus ended the disturbances in Hon- 
duras, which had, at one time, threatened to break up the 
proposed Union of the States, and, for the time, British and 
Servile policy were again crushed to earth. 

The Admiral had already prepared to sail, and "La 
S^rieuse," was every way ready to follow, at a moment's 
warning. And although a deputation had arrived from San 
Miguel, to conduct me to that city, yet the principal object 
of my visit having been accomplished, I was anxious to 
return to Leon, which I did a day or two subsequently, 
having in the meantime made another trip to the island of 
Tigre, and completed the observations necessary to the 
construction of the Map of the Gulf of Fonseca, elsewhere 


I regretted much my inability to spend more time in San 
Salvador, which is, in many respects, the most interesting 
and important State of the five which composed the old 
federation. In territorial extent, it is the smallest, but it has 
a greater relative population than either of the others, and 
its people are better educated and more industrious. It has, 
from the first, been the stronghold of the Liberal party, and 
has constantly adhered, with heroic devotion, to the idea of 
Nationality. The restoration of the Republic of Central 
America is the grand object of its policy, and to this all other 
questions are regarded as subordinate. It ha5 had frequent 
collisions with the agents of Great Britain, (who, without 
exception, are active Servile partisans,) but has always main- 
tained itself with firmness and dignity. As a consequence, it 
has been grossly maligned, and its people held up as imper- 
sonations of perfidy and disorder. But there is no |)art of 
Central, nor of Spanish America, where individual rights are 
better respected, or the duties of republicanism better under- 
stood. Whatever the future history of Central America, its 
most important part, in all that requires activity, concentra- 
tion, and force, will be performed by San Salvador. 



In the month of June succeeding the events detailed above, 
having received leave of absence from my Government, I 
started from Leon on my return to the United States. It 
was the commencement of the rainy season, and already the 
vegetable world was putting on new robes of green. I found, 
as I rode from one town to another, that a year had wrought 
a wonderful change in the aspect of the country. The inter- 
vention of the United States, and the probable speedy open- 
ing of Californian transit, had contributed to restore public 
confidence, and had given a new impulse to industry, I 
observed that fully one-third more ground had been put 
under cultivation than the year previously, and that in other 
respects considerable improvements had been made. 

In Granada an American hotel had been established, and 
I found that my old and excellent friend Dr. S. was no 
longer the sole representative of the United States in that 
hospitable city. I need not add that I took up my quarters 
at the " Fonda Americana." But my stay was brief The 
novelty of a residence amongst orange and palm trees had 
quite worn off; life had become tame and monotonous ; and 
I longed for the action and bustle of home. The playa of 
Granada was not less cheerful than when I landed ; the 


tropical winds were as bland, and the sun as brilliant. The 
Indians girls were not less arch, nor the languid Se&oras less 
beautiful ; the SeSorita Terisa sang operas quite as well as 
before ; but still there was a vacancy to be supplied. The 
essential element of vitality was wanting; and however 
much I had been taken at the outset with the primitive 
aspect of society, and the quiet, dreamy habits of the people, 
I was now more than ever convinced that life, to be relished, 
must be earnest, and that its highest and keenest enjoyments 
are involved in what is often called its " warfare." 

Three days after my arrival in Granada, I embarked at 
" Los Cocos," in a bongo loaded with Brazil wood, for San 
Juan. We dawdled, day after day, along the northern shore 
of the lake, after the immemorial fashion amongst the mari- 
neros, stopped again at El Pedernal," and the Bahita de San 
Miguel, and on the morning of the sixth day reached San 
Carlos. My rotund friend, the Commandante, arrayed in a 
new uniform, and reinstated in his old quarters, welcomed me 
with all the warmth of his genial temper ; and again I was 
installed, amongst the pigeons and chickens, in lus house on 
the promontory. 

I was impatient to proceed, but we did not get away until 
the sun was setting behind Salentenami, throwing a flood 
of radiance over the lake, while the river flowed dark and 
silent beneath the shadows of the dense forests on its banks. 
The descent of the San Juan is an easy matter compared 
with the ascent. It is usually accomplished in two days ; 
but on the morning of our second day, our patron Antonio, 
in an attempt to " shoot " the central channel of the Rapids 
of Machuca, ran us upon the rocks, where we remained for 
thirty hours, until relieved by the united crews of six bongos, 
which, in ascending and descending, had, in the meantime, 
reached the rapids. Our situation during this time was 
perilous in the extreme, and had not our boat been new and 
staunch, it must inevitably have gone to pieces. After the 


first excitement was over, I amused myself by shooting alli- 
gators, in their attempts to ascend the rapids. A dozen of 
their ugly heads might be seen above the water at the same 
moment. By keeping in the eddies, they contrive to get up, 
but it is a long process for them, and requires an entire day. 

San Juan had undergone very little change since my 
previous visit. My friend, the Consul General, had gone 
home, and the supreme authority was vested in a little man 
named Gre^n, one of those who, in conjunction with McDon- 
ald, Walker & Co., had invented the Mosquito Klingdom I 
The two wan policemen were also gone ; one had absconded 
with a quantity of the Consul's papers, and the other, I be- 
lieve, had died. Their place was now filled by a dozen 
negroes from Jamaica, not particularly prepossessing in their 
exteriors, or agreeable in their mannera Captain Shepherd 
still swung in his hammock, clinging tenaciously to his 
parchment grants; and Monsieur Sigaud, upright, honest- 
hearted Frenchman, was my host. His titled countryman, 
the Viscomte, oblivious of slaughtered pigs, had made his 
peace with the English authorities, and in conjunction with 
a German Jew, of doubtful antecedents, had now the control 
of the Custom House. 

There was a large party of Americans in San Juan. They 
had brought the news of the ratification of the Clayton and 
Bulwer treaty, and the people were ecstatic under the be- 
lief that they were thereby to be relieved from British rule. 
But Dr. Green cooled their ardor by producing a letter from 
the Foreign office, in which the treaty was interpreted to be 
an implied if not an express recognition of the British es- 
tablishments on the coast, by the American Government. 

The British steamer Dee arrived in port the morning after 
my arrival. She stayed but a single day, and on the 26th of 
June, 1850, I bade farewell to the shores of Nicaragua.' 

^ I found in San Juan the crew of an American vessel, wrecked a short 
VOL. IL 27 


Twenty-four hours brought us in sight of Chagres, whei^ 
beneath the old Castle of San Felipe, the " Greorgia" and 
"Philadelphia," with steam already up, were taking on 
board their last passengers, for the United States. I had 
barely time to get my baggage on board the former, before 
the anchor was lifted, and we were under way, '* homeward 
bound." A brief and pleasant passage of eight days to New 
York, offered a striking contrast to our month's imprisonment 
in the little " Frances," outward bound. The captain was 
right ; that voyage to San Juan was really her " thirty- 
seventh and last," she was condemned on her return, and 
has probably gone " where all good vessels go." Peace to 

her venerable timbers ! 

* * * * * * * * * 

The preceding rapid narrative of incidents connected with 
my residence in Nicaragua might be greatly extended ; bat 
so far as my principal purpose of conveying some idea of the 
geography, scenery, resources, and antiquities of the country, 
and of the character, habits, and actual situation of its peo- 
ple, is concerned, it is probably unnecessary to add anything 
to what I have already said. A few words in respect to the 
Government and present constitution of the country may 
not be unacceptable, and with these I shall close this portion 
of my work, and pass to the consideration of other, but col- 
lateral, subjects. 

The dissolution of the Federal Republic of Central Ameri- 
ca, in 1838, left the various States which had composed it in a 

time previously, in the vicinity of that port They had barely escaped 
with their lives. As there was no American Consul to provide for their 
return home, I proposed some arrangement to the commander of the 
" Dee" for conveying them to Chagres. But he cut the matter short by 
offering them all a free passage. I have had but few opportunities, in thji 
narrative, of saying good things of our English cousins in Central Amer- 
ica; and I have therefore the more pleasure in mentioning this incident, 
illustrating the honorable reputation for generosity enjoyed by the British 


siiigalar and anomalous position. Some of them still adhered 
to the idea of nationality, but could not disguise the fact 
that the Federation no longer existed. Under those circum- 
stances, they severally assumed the powers and responsi- 
bilities of independent sovereignties. Their respective con- 
stitutions, framed to conform to the federal system, now re- 
quired to be altered to suit their new conditions. The Gov- 
ernment of Nicaragua convened a Constituent Assembly for 
that specific purpose, which, on the 12th of November 1838, 
proclaimed a new constitution. It was accepted in due form 
by the people, and has since constituted the fundamental law 
of the State. 

This instrument is thoroughly republican in its provisions. 
It provides that the Executive Power shall be vested in an 
oflScer styled the ** Supreme Director," who is elected directly 
by popular vote, for the term of two years, but is ineligible 
for two consecutive terms. He must be a native of Central 
America, a resident for five years in the State, and have at- 
tained the age of thirty years. The legislative power is 
vested in an Assembly, composed of a Senate and House of 
Representatives. The Senate consists of two members from 
each of the six districts into which the State is divided ; they 
must possess all the qualifications of the Supreme Director, 
besides actual property to the value of $1000. They hold 
their offices for four years, and are so classified that the term 
of office of one-fourth of the number expires annually. 
They are not eligible beyond two consecutive terms, nor can 
any ecclesiastic be elected to their body. The Representa- 
tives are apportioned on the basis of every twenty thousand 
inhabitants. They must have attained twenty-five years of 
age, have resided one year in the State, and may be either 
secular or ecclesiastic. They are eligible for only two con- 
secutive terms. No officer in the employ of the Government 
d^n be elected to either branch of the Assembly ; nor can 
any member accept a public appointment. The acts of this 


Assembly require a vote of two-thirds of each branch, and 
the approval of the Supreme Director, in order to have the 
force of law. All males of the age of twenty years, bom 
in the country, are electors. Exceptions are made in fevor 
of married males and persons who have obtained a scientific 
degree or acquired a liberal profession. These secure the 
privileges of electors at the age of eighteen years. All per- 
sons convicted of criminal oflFences, who traffic in slaves or 
are privy to such traffic, or who accept employment, or 
titles, or pensions, from other Governments, forfeit their 
citizenship. This right is also suspended in certain cases, 
one of which is rather extraordinary. An individual who 
accepts the position of personal servant to another, is inca- 
pable, for the time being, of exercising his political privi- 

The rights of the citizen are defined to be "Liberty, 
Equality, Security of Life and Property, all of which are in- 
separable and inalienable, and inherent in the nature of 
man." Their preservation is declared to be the primary 
object of all society and government. " Every man is free, 
and can neither sell himself nor be sold by others." And 
although the Catholic religion is recognized by the State, 
and protected by the Government, yet all other religions are 
tolerated, and their free and public exercise guarantied. 
Entire liberty of speech and the freedom of the press are 
also guarantied, but individuals arc subject to arraignment 
for their abuse. The right of petition, the principle of the 
inviolability of domicil, the security of seal, etc, etc., are 
recognized in their full extent, and are placed beyond the 
reach of the legislative or administrative powers. 

The Judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, the members 
of which are named by the House of Representatives, and 
confirmed by the Senate, three in each department, who 
hold their offices for only four years, but are always eligible 
to re-election. One in each district is designated as Presid- 


ing Judge ; and the President Judges, meeting annually in 
the capital, constitute a Court of Appeals, or final resort. 

In short, as observed at the outset, the whole spirit and 
all the provisions of this constitution are eminently republic- 
an. It displays a full knowledge of the duties and require- 
ments of Government, and needs only to be faithfully ad- 
ministered to meet all the purposes of a sound political 
organization. If it does not do this, the causes of its failure 
lie elsewhere, — ^in the circumstances of the people. 

When I arrived in the coimtry, the Government was or- 
ganized as follows : 

Senor Don Norberto Ramirez,, . . . Supreme Director. 

" " Sebastian Salinas, .... Sect of Foreign Relations. 
" " Pablo Buitraoo, .... "of War. 

" " JosB T. MuNoz, General in Chief 

" " Chavarria, Treasurer. 

And here I must be permitted to bear testimony, not only 
to the public zeal, the earnest and unselfish patriotism, and 
the unflagging spirit of these men, who, under the most de- 
pressed and adverse circumstances, threatened from abroad, 
and harraased at home, nevertheless dedicated themselves 
fearlessly and faithfully to the interests and requirements of 
their country. Seiior Ramirez had once filled the ofiice of 
President of San Salvador. Moderate, yet firm, a Liberal from 
principle not interest, with large experience amongst men, a 
thorough practical education, joined to great simplicity and 
dignity of manners, he was a man eminently adapted to the 
post which he occupied. Sefior Salinas had been long iden- 
tified with Nicaragua ; and had held the ofiice of Secretary 
of Foreign Affairs during several administrations. His abili- 
ties are well exhibited in the discussions with the British 
diplomatic agents, in respect to the Mosquito shore. In 
argument, temper, and force, they compare favorably with 
any similar documents in any language, and furnish striking 


contrasts to the correspondence on the English side. SeiLar 
Buitrago, although now holding the post of Secretary of 
War, was once the highest officer in the State. As an ora- 
tor and a publicist, he is probably entitled to the first posi- 
tion in the country. He is, I believe, the author of the 
existing constitution, and is now a member of the new Na- 
tional Representation. Of Gen. Mufioz I have elsewhere 
spoken. To him, it is universally conceded, belongs the 
honor of having efiectively reformed the army, and, from 
the terror and scourge of the State, made it the bulwark of 
its peace. 

The political history of Nicaragua, up to the period of 
the dissolution of the Confederacy, in 1838, is so intimately 
connected with that of the other States, composing the old 
Eepublic, as to preclude its separate consideration. And, 
subsequent to that event, its relations with San Salvador and 
Honduras, with which it has recently effected a Federal 
Union, have been so close, that the history of one must, 
almost of necessity, be the history of the other. I have 
therefore proposed to reserve all that I may have to say upon 
these subjects for a distinct essay, entitled " Outline of the 
Political History of Central America^^ which will be found 
appended to this volume. 






» ■ 






Columbus discovered the American Continent, and Ma- 
gellan the Straits whieli bear his name, in their attempts to 
find " a short and easy passage to the Indies." The same 
hope sustained Cortes, when, followed by only a handful of 
soldiers, he advanced into the heart of the hostile Empire of 
Mexico. That leading object was not abandoned in his re- 
Tcrses, or forgotten in his triumphs. The Emperor Charles 
T., in. a letter written in 1523, from Valladolid, enjoins him 
to search carefully for " el ^Sccreto del Estrecho^^^ the Secret of 
die Strait, which should connect the eastern and western 
shores of New Spain, and shorten by two-thirds, as it was 
then supposed, the route from Cadiz to " the land of spices" 
aiid the shores of Cathay. In his reply to this letter, Cortes 
indulges in the expression of the highest hopes of making 
this grand discovery, "which," he adds, "would render the 
King of Spain master of so many kingdoms, that he mig 
consider himself Lord of the World." 

But Cortes and his followers sought in vain ; the "Secret 

VOL. II. 28 


of the Strait " was past finding out ; and the fact that no 
natural communication existed between the two seas, became 
early established. From that moment, as I have already 
said, the project of opening an artificial communication from 
one ocean to the other, has occupied the minds of men. 
Five principal points have been indicated as probably feasible 
for that grand undertaking. They are : — 

1st. The Isthmus of Teliuantepec, between the sources of 
the Rio Chimalapa or Chicapa, wliich falls into the Pacific 
Ocean ; and the Rio Coatzacalco, or Uuasacualco, falling into 
the Atlantic. 

2d. The Isthmus of Nicaragua, via the Rio San Juan, 
Lake Nicaragua, to the Gulf of Papagayo, the Port of 
Realejo, or the Gulf of Fonseca. 

3d. The Isthmus of Panama. 

4th. The Isthmus of Darien, or Cupica. 

5th. The Isthmus between the Rio Atrato, falling into the 
Atlantic, and the Rio Choco, which empties into the Pacific. 

From the period when Gomara wrote, in 1551, until the 
present time, the subject of the communication has been a 
matter of much speculation ; but beyond a few partial sm- 
veys, until very lately, nothing of a practical character his 
been attempted. The recent acquisitions of the United 
States on the Pacific, attended bv the discovery of extraor- 
uinary mineral wealth in California, have given this direc- 
tion to American enterprise, and have rendered it probable 
that the two oceans will speedily be connected at several 
points by railroad or canal, one or both, and that a complete 
revolution will thereby be eflfected in the commercial rela- 
tions of the world. 

It has been universally conceded that the only communi- 
cation which can really confer any great benefit upon com- 
merce, must be by means of a canal capable of passing with 
safety and rapidity the largest ships. And it has as gene- 
rally been conceded, by those who have investigated the sub* 


ject, that the only route practicable for such a purpose is 
that via Lake Nicaragua, and its dependent waters. It has 
good harbors upon both coasts, and passes through a country 
remarkable for its salubrity, and capable of furnishing all 
the supplies which would be required by the commerce of 
the world, should it take this direction. 

But although it has occupied so large a share of the atten- 
tion of all maritime nations, and furnished a subject for 
innumerable essays in almost every language of Europe, it 
is astonishing that so little has actually been ascertained 
concerning it. The data upon which most writers have pro- 
ceeded have been exceedingly vague, and have, in more 
than one instance, received an undue coloring from their 
prejudices. This renders it more important that a complete 
and accurate survey of the proposed route should speedily 
be made by competent engineers ; not a simple reconnois- 
sance on a single line, but a thorough examination of every 
line which may be thought feasible. And it is not less im- 
portant that these surveys should be impartially made, in 
good faith, and not with the view of subserving the purposes 
of unscrupulous speculators, or of companies organized for 
the sale of stocks. 

During my residence in Nicaragua, in accordance both 
with my duty and my inclination, I availed myself of every 
opportunity of procuring authentic information upon the 
subject of this communication, and personally visited most of 
the proposed lines across the Nicaraguan Isthmus. My 
information is necessarily general in its nature, for I had 
neither instruments nor assistants to enable me to get at 
mathematical data, upon which alone practical operations 
can be predicated. Until we shall have these, my observa- 
tions, made on the spot, may not prove valueless. 

The great problem connected with the subject of the pro- 
posed canal, and which has universally been esteemed as vital 
to the question of its feasibility, is this : Is the great chain of 


the Cordilleras interrupted at any point upon the great Central 
Isthmus f To this question I am enabled to answer in the 
affirmative. Between the great Basin of Nicaragua, in which 
are the Lakes Managua and Nicaragua, and which is drained 
by the River San Juan, flowing into the Caribbean sea — that 
is to say, between the western extremity of Lake Managua 
and the Pacific, the Cordilleras are icholly interrupted^ and we 
havfe only the great plains of Leon and Conejo, rising, for a 
distance of three thousand yards, to an elevation of about 
sixtv feet above the lake, and two hundred above the sea, 
and thence subsiding, in a gentle slope, to the ocean« 
Between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific, there is a narrow 
strip of land, not exceeding fourteen miles in width at its 
narrowest part ; but it is traversed by an elevated ridge, 
which at the point deemed most favorable for the construction 
of a canal, has been found, by measurement, to rise to the 
height of several hundred feet above the ocean. 

The starting point of the proposed canal, upon the Atlantic, 
for reasons which will be obvious enough by reference to the 
Map of Nicaragua, accompanying this book, must be at the 
Port of San Juan de Nicaragua. It is equally obvious that 
the projected work must pass up the valley of San Juan, to 
Lake Nicaragua. From this lake, however, various routes of 
communication with the Pacific have been suggested. 

1st. By way of the River Sapoa, falling into Lake Nica- 
ragua, to the Bay or Gulf of Bolanos or Salinas, on the 

2nd. By way of the Rio Lajas, falling into Lake Nicaragua, 
near the city of Rivas or Nicaragua, or some point in that 
vicinity, to the little harbor of Concordia, or San Juan del 
Sur, on the Pacific. 

3d. By way of the Estero de Panaloya, extending from 
Lake Nicaragua to within four miles of the Lake of Managua, 
and through this lake to, 1st, the little port of Tamarinda on 
the Pacific ; or, 2d, to the well-known port of Realejo ; or, Sd, 


via the Estero Beal, to the magnificent Gulf or Bay of 

1 shall present, in a compendious manner, the facts of 
which I am in possession, in respect to those routes in the 
order above named. 


The detailed and accurate " Map of the San Juan Kiver" 
herewith presented, and the observations contained in the 
second and third chapters of the preceding narrative, pre- 
clude the necessity of any further extended references to the 
Port and Eiver of San Juan. I shall, therefore, confine 
myself to a mere recapitulation of the facts therein embodied. 

The position, form, size, and depth of the harbor are 
shown in the authentic map accompanying the survey of the 
river, which is reduced from one constructed by George Pea- 
cock, of H. B. M.'s ship Hyacinth, in 1832, subsequently 
corrected, and published under the order of the British 
Admiralty, in 1848. The San Juan River has several 
mouths, viz: the Colorado, the Taura, and the San Juan. 
The latter debouches, by several channels, into the harbor. 
The point of divergence is about fourteen miles distant from 
the port, and the whole intervening country is a low delta, 
or alluvion, interspersed with lagunas, and often partially 
covered with water, during the prevalence of heavy rains in 
the interior. The Colorado mouth carries off the greatest 
part of the water of the river, probably not much less than 
two thirds, and opens directly into the ocean. A bar, impass- 
able for vessels of any considerable size, exists at its mouth. 
It is not supposed that, under any practicable system of im- 
provements, this mouth could be used for commercial pur- 
poses, or as a means of entering the river. 

It has been suggested that the channel of the Colorado 
was cut or enlarged by the Spaniards, under the Empire, to 


prevent the ascent oT hostile vessels ; but the suggestion is 
simply absurd. The delta has existed very nearly in its pre- 
sent form and condition, without doubt, for many centunes. 
The loss of water by the Colorado has been calculated at 
28,000 cubic yards per minute in the dry, and 86,000 per 
minute in the rainy season. 

The Taura mouth is small ; that opening into the harbor, 
and ^'hich bears the name of the river, is broad, but shallow, 
with a narrow channel, through which the little, native boats 
or bongos, which seldom draw more than three feet of water, 
often find it difficult, and sometimes impossible to pass. It 
is studded with low islands ; and the depth varies from three 
to eight feet ; bottom mud and sand, and channel constantly 

From the point of divergence to the mouth of the Sera- 
piqui, the current is regular, and the depth from six to thirty 
feet; average depth twelve feet. To the divergence of 
Juanillo, the banks are low, but beyond that point, they 
become from ei"rht to twenty feet in heiirht, firm and well- 
wooded. The San Juanillo has a narrow channel at its point 
of separation, but soon widens into a broad and deep lagoon, 
called the Laguna de San Juanillo. I was told that it has a 
depth of water ranging from two to six fathoms, and that 
with some improvements at its entrance and where it again 
joins the San Juan, it might probably be made navigable for 
small steamers, and obviate the difficulty now experienced 
in the navigation from the Colorado to the harbor. 

The Rio Serapiqui is a large stream, rising at the foot of 
the great volcano of Cartage, in Costa Rica, and is navigable 
for canoes to a point called San Alfonso, a distance of twenty 
or twenty-five miles. At this point commences a mule path, 
" road" as it is sometimes called, which communicates with 
San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. 

It is thirteen miles from the Rio Serapiqui to the Rio San 
Carlos, which also rises at the base of the volcano of Cartage, 


and may be ascended by bongos for from fifteen to twenty 
miles. The river is broad, with banks firm and well wooded, 
but not high, and has a depth of from six to thirty feet in 
the channel ; average depth fourteen feet ; current strong but 
even. From the Eio San Carlos to the Kapids of Machuca, 
also a distance of thirteen miles, the banks are high and 
studded with beautiful trees ; the current regular, but the 
depth variable, ranging from six to forty feet in mid-channel ; 
average depth twenty feet. 

I^he Kapids of the Machuca are the longest, and in many 
respects the worst, on the river. They are not far from half 
a mile in length ; the river here is spread over a wide, rocky, 
and crooked bed, with large rocks projecting above the sur- 
fece of the stream, between which the water rushes with the 
greatest velocity. They are considered dangerous by the 
native boatmen, who are only enabled to ascend them by 
keeping close to the northern shore, where the current is 
least, and where the boat is pushed up by main force.. It is 
often necessary to take out part of the load both in going up 
and coming down. Descending boats, in order to avoid this 
trouble, sometimes venture into the central, tortuous chan- 
nels; but this is always perilous. The boat in which I 
descended the river, June 1850, attempted this course, but 
was jammed amongst the rocks, and had it not been new and 
strong, would inevitably have gone to pieces. We were 
detained in this dangerous position for thirty hours. The 
little steamer **Orus" sent out by Mr. Vanderbilt, in Septem- 
ber of the same year, after having succeeded in entering the 
river by the Colorado mouth, was completely wrecked upon 
the rocks, at these Eapids. A smaller steamer, called the 
" Director," sent out by the same gentleman, was got past 
this point, at the expense of great labor and some weeks of 
time. It is very clear, that without some great artificial 
improvement, these Rapids will prove an insuperable obstacle 
to regular steam navigation on this river. 


About three miles above the Machuca Rapids, are the 
Rapids of Mico and Los Valos, which however are close to- 
gether, and may be regarded as one. Still above these are 
the Rapids of the Castillo. For the whole distance between 
the Machuca and the Castillo, the banks of the river are 
rocky; the bottom is also rough and rocky. The depth is 
very uneven, varying from five to twenty feet within the 
space of hardly as many rods. The current is rapid, and all 
upward navigation difficult. 

The Rapids of the Castillo are the shortest of the series, and 
almost deserve the name of falls. Here considerable ridges 
come down to the river on either side. Upon the extreme 
point of that upon the south bank, is the old fort or castle 
of San Juan, now known as El Castillo Viejo. The rapids, 
without artificial modifications, would present nearly an in- 
superable obstacle to all kinds of navigation deserving the 
name. Bongos cannot ascend loaded ; when they have car- 
goes, part has to be removed and carried past the falls. The 
boats are then tracked, or pushed up against the current, by 
main force. My bongo was upward of three hours in getting 
as many hundred yards. 

Five miles above the Castillo are the Rapides del Toro. 
The banks are firm and high, and the soil seems well adapted 
for settlements. These rapids are about three fourths of a 
mile long. The water, of course, varies in depth with the dif- 
ferent seasons of the year. At the time of my passage, it 
was, certainly for most of its extent, less than a fathom in 
depth. Bulow gives the current at 180 to 200 yards per 
minute, but I esteem it something more. 

From the Rapides del Toro to Lake Nicaragua is a distance 
of twenty-four miles. The current for this distance is slight 
— according to Baron Bulow, not exceeding one and a-ha^ 
miles the hour. The channel is wide, and the depth of the 
water from two to four fathoms ; average thirteen feet. The 
banks are low, and the back country flat and swampy. Some 


sluggish streams come in from both north and south, but 
they are ahnost hidden by the overhanging trees. At the 
head of the river, is the old fort of San Carlos. 

The water of the lake opposite the fort and fronting the 
opening of the San Juan, is very shallow, not exceeding six 
or seven feet in depth for the distance of a mile and upward 
from the shore. Near this point the Kio Frio (Cold Eiver) 
comes in from the south. It is a large stream, and is repre* 
sented to have two fathoms water for a distance of forty 
miles from its mouth. 

I have no hesitation in asserting that the San Juan never 
can be made navigable for ships of any considerable size. 
Small steamers, with some improvements in the channel, 
might be run without much difficulty; and this is all that 
can be hoped for from this stream. 

In case it should be determined to open communication 
for ships across the continent at this point, it would be ne- 
cessary to cut a canal at the base of the hills parallel to the 
stream, which might be made to yield, at^ the necessary in- 
tervals, the requisite supply of water. It is possible that the 
river might be used from the lake to the Toro Kapids, though 
even this is not certain. I am convinced that the ground 
rises not very far back from the river on the north, and that 
stone and all the materials necessary for the construction of 
a canal might be obtained, without difficulty, very nearly on 
the spot desired. These are things, however, which can 
only be determined from actual survey. A canal upon the 
southern bank, for reasons sufficiently obvious, from what has 
been presented above, is impracticable. 

It has been conjectured by some that formerly the volume 
of water in the San Juan was much more considerable than 
it now is. This conjecture was doubtless founded on the 
circumstance of strong defences having been erected by the 
Spaniards, many years since, upon the banks both of the river 
and the lake, implying that it was an important channel of 

VOL. n. 29 


communication, and upon the known fact that vessels de- 
nominated in early times " frigates" were accustomed to pass 
from the ocean to the lake and from the lake to the ocean. 
Indeed, it would seem that vessels sometimes sailed direct 
from Granada to the ports of Spain ; but from the accounts 
of Gage, who visited Nicaragua about 1670, it appears that 
the task of passing " El Desaguadero,-* or the San Juan, was 
one of great difficulty and danger. lie says: *'For though 
while the vessels sail on the lake securely and without trou- 
ble, yet, when they fall from the lake to the sea, liic labor^ 
hoc opus est — here is nothing but trouble, which sometimes 
makes that short voyage to last for sixtf/ days ; for such is 
the fall of the waters in many places among the rocks, that 
many times they are forced to unload the ^frigatc^^ and load 
them again with the help of mules kept for that purpose by 
the few Indians who live about the river and have care of 
the lodges made to lay in the wares, while the frigate passes 
through dangerous places to another lodge, whither the 
wares are brought by mules and again placed in the frigate." 
These vessels, here called "frigates," were probably of small 
size, not exceeding eighty or a hundred tons burden. Ves- 
sels of this size may still, witli extraordinary efforts, be taken 
up during high water in the river, as was shown in 1826, by 
Capt. Peter Shepherd, of San Juan, who took a schooner of 
fifty-two tons through the river by removing her keel and 
warping the whole distance. In this condition the vessel 
drew three feet six inches. The task was accomplished in 
thirty-two days. It may be observed here, upon the author- 
ity of Captain Shepherd, that this vessel, with her keel re- 
placed and loaded, drew seven feet of water, and that ihen^ 
in the dry season, she could not approach within two miles 
of San Carlos. Such being the fact, extensive works would 
be necessary to enable ships to pass from the lake into any 
canal which might be constructed. 

This part of the line of the proposed canal, i. e., from the 


Atlantic to Lake Nicaragua, has been hitherto passed over 
with very little remark, on the assumption, apparently, that 
here no difficulty existed, and that the river might readily 
be made to answer every desirable purpose. It will how- 
ever be found to be the most difficult part of the whole 
enterprise ; not less on account of the insufficiency of the 
river for ship navigation, than on account of the climate. 

It should be observed, before dismissing this portion of the 
subject, that the rapids in the river are not formed by the 
simple aggregation of rocks, but by the interposition of beds 
of hornblendic and very solid rock, in their natural position, 
or uplifted by subterranean forces. Mr. Baily inclines to the 
opinion that these beds, or some of them, have been up- 
heaved at a comparatively late period, by volcanic agency. 
Amongst the reasons which he gives for this opinion, is the 

" In further corroboration of this hypothesis may be cited an incident 
that occurred in 1648, in which year a Spanish brigantine, from Cartha- 
gena de las Indias, arrived at Granada : after discharging her cargo and 
taking anotlier on board, she started on her return voyage, but on pro- 
ceeding down the river, it was found to be so obstructed at a certain p>oint 
that the passage was impossible ; she was consequently taken back to 
Granada, the cargo was relanded, and the vessel laid up at a place near 
by, called tlie Isletas, where, after lying some years, she was broken up. 
Protests and documents confirmatory of this fact are still existing in the 
municipal archives of the city. There is indeed no record extant of vio- 
lent earthquake, nor extraordinary volcanic explosion, having happened 
at that period; yet the possibility of the event just supposed need not be 
rejected as purely imaginary, in the face of the historical evidences there 
are of the rising of Monte Nuevo, near Naples, in 1538 ; of JoruUo, in 
Mexico, in 1759; and some more modern instances; though certainly 
most of these are known to have been accompanied by earthquakes." 

The following table will present the leading facti* con- 
nected with the stream : 






1*:— • 





• • 

C a, 






From Port to divergence 
of Colorado, . . 
" Colorado to Sera- 
piqui . . . 
'• Serapiqui to Rio San 

Carlos . . . 

" Rio San Carlos to 

Rapids of Machuca . 

" Rapids of Machuca 

to Rapids del Toro . 

" Rapids del Toro to 

Lake . . . 




















sand and 








42 3 



According to Mr. Baily, the Lake of Nicaragua is about 
one hundred and five statute miles in greatest length, by 
forty-five in greatest breadth. I have elsewhere estimated it 
at about one hundred and twenty in length, by fifty or sixty in 
greatest breadth. " Near the shores," says Mr. Baily, " that 
is to say, at, a distance of one hundred yards from the beach, 
there is generally a depth of two fathoms of water ; in other 
parts, all the intermediate soundings, from five to fifteen 
£ithoms, are found." Mr. A. G., quoted by Louis Napoleon, in 
his pamphlet on the subject, sounded forty-five fathoms (270 
feet), in the middle of the lake. Upon the northern side of 
the lake, the water is comparatively shallow ; it is also shal- 
low near its outlet, and near the commencement of the Estero 
de Panaloya, at its head. 

Its height above the ocean has been variously estimated ; 
and the measurements which have been made do not entirely 
agree. According to Mr. Baily, and as the result of three 


hundred and fifty-one levels, taken by him in 1838, between 
the port of San Juan del Sur, on the Pacific, and the mouth 
of the river Lajas, the level of the lake is 128 feet 8 inches 
above that of the Pacific. Assuming this to be correct, and 
that the result arrived at by Mr. Lloyd, and others, viz., that 
the Pacific, at low water, in the Bay of Panama, is six feet 
six inches lower than the Caribbean Sea at Chagres, is also 
correct, it follows that Lake Nicaragua is 121 feet 9 inches 
above the Atlantic. Galisteo, a Spanish Engineer, who inves- 
tigated the subject in 1781, fixes the level of the lake at 
134 feet above that of the Pacific ; and the tables presented 
in Thompson's Guatemala make it 141 feet 8 inches. The 
level varies somewhat with the season of the year; this 
variation, Mr. Baily ascertained to be about six feet six 

The river San Juan, including its windings, is 88 miles in 
length ; it has therefore a fall of a fraction more than 16 
inches to the mile. 


Via Bio Sapoa^ on Lake Nicaragua, to the Bay o/Botaflos^ or 

Salinas, on the Pacific, 

This route has been very recently suggested ; and we have 
but little information concerning it. For what we have we 
are indebted to Dr. Andraes Oersted, of Copenhagen, who 
seems to have made a reconnaisance of it in 1848. I have in 
my possession an original map of the proposed line, made by 
him, and presented to me by Dr. F. V. Clark, lately resident 
in Costa Eica, of which a reduced copy and an explanatory 
section accompany the Map of the river San Juan. 

It will be seen that the entire distance from the lake to 
the ocean is represented to be only thirteen and a half miles. 


If this be correct, the isthmus is here narrower than at any 
other point. It is also claimed that the river Sapoa can be 
made navigable for half of this distance ; and we are left to 
infer that it has a volume of water sufficiently great to sup- 
ply the canal, from that point to the sea. But taking in 
view the length of the river, and the small space of country 
which it drains, this is hardly to be credited. If the fall of 
the river is truly represented in the section, it cannot be less 
than sixty feet in six miles ; in order, therefore to be made 
navigable for that distance, it will require locks, and othei 
improvements, of the extent and nature of which we have no 
means of judging. 

The greatest height of land, or the summit level, on this 
line is set down at 258 feet above the Pacific (i. e., 129 feet 
9 inches above the lake) and not far from 70 feet above the 
highest point of navigation on the Sapoa, when that river 
shall have been improved as above suggested. 

The Bay of Salinas, the proposed Pacific terminus of the 
canal, on this line, is a very fine one, and much better adapt- 
ed for commercial purposes than any other to the northward, 
short of Realejo. The State of Costa Rica, which has set 
up some pretensions to sovereignty over this part of Nicara- 
gua, in 1848 made a grant of this line to an English com- 
pany. But by a letter from the British Vice Consul in 
Nicaragua to Lord Palmerston, written in 1848, it appears 
that the examination of the line, in that year, proved it to 
be impracticable. 

Line from the month of Rio Lajas^ on Lake Nicaragua^ to the 
Port of San Juan Del Sur, on the Pacific. 

This is the line to which public attention has been oftenest 
directed, and upon which nearly all practical operations have 
hitherto been conducted. It was surveyed in 1781, under 



order of the Spanish Government, by Don Manual Galisteo ; 
and subsequently by some other engineer, in the service of 
Spain, the results of whose measurements are published in 
the Appendix to Thompson's Guatemala. In 1838 it was 
again surveyed by Mr. John Baily, under the direction of 
the Federal Government of Central America. These various 
surveys were not on precisely the same line ; although there 
can be no doubt that they all terminated at the little port of 
San Juan del Sur, on the Pacific. They show that a high, 
broad ridge of land intervenes between the lake and ocean. 
The height of this ridge is variable ; but after riding in 
person along the greatest part of its length, I am satisfied 
that it is unbroken.' 

The following table shows some of the results of the sur» 
veys on this line, by the engineers above referred to : 


Diit&noe from 
Lake to Oce&n. 

Greatest Eleration 
abore Ocean. 

Oreateit Eleration 
above Lake. 


Quoted by Thompson . 

Miles. Feet. 
17 200 

17 330 
16 730 


272 • 





The distance, according to Mr. Baily's survey, is 28,409 
yards ; of which 14,420 yards are on or below the level of 
the lake, viz : 8,960 below, and 5,460 on the same level, the 
latter being the extent to which it is calculated the river Lajaa 
might be used. The average altitude above the lake for the 

' It will be time enough to credit the report which has recently been 
set afloat, that a passage has been discovered, " which is only twelve miles 
in length, and requires but forty-eight feet of vertical cutting, to cause the 
waters of the lake to mingle with those of the ocean," when we shall have 
the facts and figures presented by competent engineers; when, in shorty 
it is demonstrated. 


remaining distance, 13,989 yards, is 179 feet. According to 
the table given by Thompson, a section of 14,700 yards of 
the line is above the level of the lake, and has an average 
altitude of 78 feet. Assuming that the supply of water to 
feed the proposed canal must be drawn from the lake, the 
vertical excavation necessary to its construction, allowing 
thirty feet for its depth, would be as follows : — 

BaUy's Line | J^' 

Other Line 

989 yards, of 209 feet average vertical catting. 
420 " " 30 " " " 

700 yards, of 108 feet average vertical cutting. 
330 " " 30 " " " 

These figures utterly preclude the idea, not the possibility, 
(for who shall say what is impossible ?) of constructing the 
proposed work on either of these lines of survey. The two 
greatest canals in the world, designed for the passage of large 
vessels, are the Caledonian Canal in Scotland, and that in 
Holland from Amsterdam to Niewdiep. The first of these 
is 21i miles long, is 20 feet deep, 50 feet wide at bottom, and 
122 feet wide at the top. It has a lockage of one hundred 
and ninety feet, and is capable of passing frigates of thirty -two 
guns, and merchant vessels of a thousand tons. It cost, in 
round numbers, $5,000,000. The second has no locks, being 
a tide canal, is 50 miles long, 20 feet 9 inches deep, 86 feet 
wide at bottom, and 124 at the top. It cost twelve millions of 
guilders, or a little more than the Caledonian Canal. I have 
already said that no canal except one capable of passing the 
largest ships from one ocean to the other, could adequately 
meet the requirements of commerce and the age. The pro- 
posed canal must then be of larger dimensions than that of 
Scotland or Holland. Admitting, for the sake of instituting 
comparisons, that a canal 30 feet deep, 50 feet wide at the 
bottom, and 150 at the top, would fully answer to these con* 


ditions, we have the following comparative results, in respect 
to the amount of excavation : 

GaledoniaQ Canal 183,902,400 cubic feet 

Holland " 422,400,000 " " 

Proposed Canal, on Baily's line . . . 4,927,577,800 " " 

That is to say, apart from any other portions of the pro- 
posed line, the single section from Lake Nicaragua to the 
Pacific, would require more than ten times the amount of 
excavation performed in constructing the Holland Canal, and 
fifty times that of the Caledonian Canal, which, from the 
nature of the ground overcome, locks, etc., affords the best 
standard of calculation. At the same ratio of expense, this 
section alone would cost $250,000,000! 

An opeu-cut canal, therefore, from Lake Nicaragua to the 
Pacific, to be supplied with water from the lake, on any line 
hitherto surveyed, is impracticable, — if on no other ground, 
certainly on that of cost. It has been proposed to avoid or 
obviate this objection, by the construction of a tunnel for 
part of the distance, where the height of land is greatest 
But any canal designed for the passage of large ships, which 
requires the construction of a tunnel, of any considerable 
length, is prima faciei impracticable. In the particular in- 
stance before us, if the open cuttings were carried, upon 
either side of the summit, until they became 90 feet deep, 
yet there would still remain 6888 yards, or upwards of three 
miles, of tunneling to be accomplished. But neither Mr. 
Baily, nor the most daring of those who have made this 
suggestion, have ventured to propose a tunnel of this length. 
They have suggested a tunnel commencing at an elevation of 
122 feet above the lake, which would reduce its length to a 
trifie over a mile, but increase the vertical lockage from 
128 to 372 feet. The fatal objection to this plan, however, 
is the lack of water to supply the upper levels, and to lock 

VOL. n. 80 


down vessels, both to the lake and ocean. Mr, Baily suggests 
the collection of the waters of the little streams and rivulets, 
rising on this narrow isthmus, and the ^^ sinking of Artesian 
weW^ to furnish the requisite supply ! I have no hesitation 
in saying, after passing over these heights, that the wliole 
amount of water which it would be possible to collect from 
these sources, would not supply the simple leakage^ to sqr 
nothing of the evaporation, of a canal of the kind required. 

These few stubborn facts, unless some more favorable line 
shall be discovered, must settle the question, so far as regards 
a canal across the narrow isthmus intervening directly, 
between Lake Nicaragua and the ocean. For although here 
appears to be the natural and most obvious route for the 
work, yet its practicability must be tested by the same 
standards which regulate the construction of all works of 
improvement and public utility. 

It is proper to add that, in constructing the canal, Mr. 
Baily proposed to make use of what is called the river Lajas, 
which falls into the lake a ftnv miles below the city of Rivas, 
for a distance of 5,460 yards from its mouth. For this dis- 
tance, he states that it has a breadth of from thirty to one hun- 
dred yards, and a depth of from six to eighteen feet ; bottom 
mud, and rock from nine to twenty -eight feet beneath. 

But no one should be deceived by the use of the term 
'* Rio," as applied in Spanish America ; for it may mean 
anything from a rill upwards. The misapprehension of this 
term, and of rnonte, which signifies generally forest, or uncul 
tivated land, has led to great errors by map-makers and 
others, deriving their information from the Spanish authori- 
ties. Thus, between Leon and Realejo, there is a forest called 
Monte de San Juan^ and certain writers have therefore in- 
ferred that a mountain intervenes between the two places; 
while, in fact, the whole country is a dead plain. The Rio 
Lajas is a running stream for only a part of the year. During 
the dry season it is simply a long, narrow lagoon, of sluggisb 


Lethean wafer, without curreDt, and the bar at its mouth U 
dry, cuttinz off all connection with the hike. The lake along 
this part of the coiist ia very shallow, the bottom roL-k. 






^H In .csjicct to tlie port of San Juan del Sur, or Concordia, 
^H the same author observes that it ia small; entrance 1,100 
^H yanis across, between promontories from 400 to 500 feet 
^B'liigh; land sandy and low at its head ; depth, 200 yards from 
^H shore, two fathoms, increaaiug to ten fathoms, which ia the 
^H depth at the entrance; rise of tide ten to fourteen feet. A 
^f mile to the northward is another little port, called Nacascolo, 
or Brito, of nearly the same size and figure. Between the 
two the land is low ; and Mr. Baily suggests that they might 
be connected by a cut, and one used as a port of entrance, 
the other as a port of exit. But neither of these is an ade- 
quate tenninus for a work like the proposed canal, and under 
the best of circumstances, and even for purposes of transit, 
both would require artificiul improvements. 

There is one grand objection to this port, as also to all 
^_ others which are found on the coast of the Pacific, parallel to 



Lake Nicaragua, viz., the character of the prevailing winds. 
These are called Papagayos^ literally, parrots^ probably firom 
the crooked bill of that bird, which illustrates their revolving 
direction. They render approach to this portion of the 
coast extremely difficult. They prevail from Punta Desola- 
da on the north, to Cape Velas on the south, a distance of 
not far from two hundred miles, and are supposed to be 
caused by the north-east trades, which, as I have said, sweep 
entirely across the continent and Lake Nicaragua, and en- 
counter other atmospheric currents on the Pacific. These 
trades are strongly felt, blowing off the shore, for a distance 
of fifteen or twenty miles, beyond which the conflicting or 
revolving winds, or Papagayos, commence.* 



It is not known that any other direct routes for a canal 
between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific have been suggested. 
These present what appear to be insuperable difficulties. 
But it has been claimed that, from the superior lake of the 
great terrestrial basin of Nicaragua, Lake Managua or Leon, 
a route can be found to good ports on the Pacific, free from 
the difficulties and objections surrounding those already 
noticed. The first consideration, therefore, relates to the 
connection between the two lakes. 

Upon this point much confusion and misapprehension 
exist, which have, to a certain extent, been set right and 
corrected in Chapter XV. of the preceding "Narrative," to 
which the reader is referred. Between Lake Nicaragua and 
Lake Managua is about sixteen miles. For twelve miles of 
this distance extends the Estero de Panaloya, which is a 
broad, shallow arm of Lake Nicaragua, ranging from six to 

' Sir Ed ward Belcher's Voyage round the World, vol i., p. 185. 


fifteen feet in depth, with low banks, and for most of the 
way, a muddy bottom. This estero is really part of Lake 
Nicaragua, and the true distance between the lakes is there- 
fore only about four miles. 

The estate of Pasquiel, at the head of this estuary, is the 
limit of navigation. Above, for a mile and a half, to " Paso 
Chico," the bed of the river is full of large and isolated rocks, 
resting upon a bed of rock which seems to be calcareous 
breccia, but, singularly enough, intermixed with fragments 
of lava, as well as various granite stones, jasper, and other 
materials. Beyond "Paso Chico," the bed, or rather the 
former bed of the river, (for there is now no water here 
except what flows from springs, or is deposited in large pools 
in the depressions of the rock by the rains,) is the same solid 
breccia, worn into basins and fantastic " pot-holes" by the 
water. Within one mile of the Lake of Managua is the fall 
of Tipitapa, opposite the little village of that name. It is a 
ledge of the same rock above described, and is from twelve 
to fifteen feet in height. The former bed of the stream is 
here not less than 400 feet in width. From the falls to the 
lake, the ancient bed is wide but shallow, and is now covered 
with grass and bushes, resembling a neglected pasture. At 
the time of my visit no water flowed through it, nor, so 
far as I could learn, had any flowed there for years. 
I can, however, readily believe that in an extremely 
wet season a small quantity may find its way through 
this channel, and over the falls. It is, nevertheless, very 
evident that no considerable body of water ever passed here. 
There is an arm of the lake which projects down the old bed 
for three or four hundred yards, but the water is only two 
or three feet deep, with an equal depth of soft, gray mud, the 
dwelling-place of numerous alligators, with reedy shores, 
thronged with every variety of water-birds. The water of 
Lake Managua, near the so-called outlet, is not deep, and the 
channel, in order to admit of the passage of large vessels, 



would probably require to be well dredged, if not protected 
by parallel piers. At the distance of about three-fourths of 
a mile from the shore, I found, by actual measurement, that 
the water did not exceed two fathoms in depth. No great 
obstruction to building the proposed canal exists in the sec- 
tion between the two lakes. The rock is so soft and friable 
that a channel can easily be opened from Lake Managua to 
the falls. Beyond this the banks are high for three miles, 
forming a natural canal which only needs to be properly 
dammed, at its lower extremity, to furnish a body of water 
adequate to every purpose of navigation. Locks would then 
be required to reach the estuary of Panaloya. From this 
point to the lake, I conceive, may prove the most difficult 
part of this section, although apparently the easiest. Where 
the bottom is earth or mud, the desirable depth of water 
may be secured by dredging ; but where it is rock, as it cer- 
tainly is near its upper extremity, some difficult excavation 
will be required. The banks downward are so low as to 
prohibit assistance from dams, except by diking the shores. 

The Tipitapa is bordered by low and slightly undulating, 
but very rich and beautiful lands, interspersed with glades, 
and chiefly occupied for cattle estates. Abundance of Brazil 
wood grows here, and large quantities are annually shipped 
in bongos from Pasquiel for the port of San Juan, passing 
thence to all parts of the world, but chiefly to the United 

Lake Managua may thus be said virtually to have no out- 
let. The streams which come in from the Pacific side are 
insignificant ; and though, as already stated, the Rio Grande 
and other streams of considerable size flow into it from the 
direction of Segovia, yet they vary much with the season of 
the year, and seldom furnish a greater quantity of water 
than is requisite to supply the evaporation from so large 
a surface, in a tropical climate. Nevertheless, a reservoir 
like that of Managua, with 1,200 square miles of sur&ce, 

TlA'ilitofhtim ^ 



would be adequate to supply all the water required for a 
ship canal at this point, without any sensible diminution of 
its volume. The winds on the lake blow freshly from the 
north-east during the afternoon and evening, and subside 
towards morning, causing an ebb and flow, in its results cor- 
responding with that produced by the tides of the ocean ; 
hence the vulgar error of a subterranean communication with 
the sea. 


The country between Lake Managua and the Pacific is 
much more favorable for the construction of a canal than that 
between Lake Nicaragua and the same ocean. The dividing 
ridge, to which I have alluded, as separating the waters of 
the latter lake from the sea, also extends along the interven- 
ing isthmus, until very neariy to the head of Lake Managua. 
Here it is wholly interrupted, or rather subsides into broad 
plains, rising but a few feet above the lake, and thence de- 
scending in a gentle slope to the ocean. Three lines across 
these plains have been suggested ; 1st, by the left shore of 
the lake to the small port of the Tamarinda ; 2d, by the same 
shore to the well known port of Realejo ; and 3d, by the 
upper shore of the lake to the Gulf of Fonseca, or Concha- 
gua. It is probable that all of these lines are feasible, but a 
minute survey can only determine which is best. 

Tamarinda Line. 

The first line suggested, that to the port of the Tamarinda, 
is considerably shorter than either of the others, not exceed- 
ing fifteen or eighteen miles in length. But the water of 
the lake upon its nopth- western shore, in the bay of Moabita, 
is shallow. In company with Dr. Livingston, U. S. Consul, 


I sounded it in July 1849. It deepened regularly firom the 
shore to the distance of one mile, when it attained five 
fiithoms. After that it deepened rapidly to ten and fifteen 
fathoms. The country between the lake and El Tamarinda, 
so far as can be ascertained, it being covered with forests, is 
level, and oflfers no insuperable obstacle to a canal. There 
is no town or village near the port, and it seems to have 
escaped general notice. Nor is it known that it has ever 
been entered by vessels, except in one or two instances for 
the purpose of loading Brazil wood. It is small, and tolera- 
bly well protected ; but is not a proper termination for a 
work like the proposed canal. 

Sealejo Line, 

The second line is that to the well known and excellent 
port of Realejo, formed by the junction of the Telica or 
Dofia Paula and Realejo rivers, and protected on the side of 
the sea by the islands of Cardon and Asserradores, and a 
bluflf of the main-land. It is safe and commodious, and the 
water is good, ranging from three and four to eight and nine 
fathoms. The volcano of El Viejo, lifting its cone upwards 
of 6,000 feet above the sea, to the north-eastward of the port, 
forms an unmistakable landmark for the mariner, long before 
any other part of the coast is visible. This line, starting 
from the nearest practicable point of Lake Managua, cannot 
fall short of forty-five miles in length. It is said that the 
Estero of Dofia Paula, which is truly only that part of the 
Telica river up which the tide flows, might be made use of 
for a considerable distance ; but that can only be determined 
by actual survey. I can discover no reason why this route 
could not be advantageously pursued. It has the present 
advantage of passing through the most populous and best 
cultivated part of the country, and terminating at a point 
already well known. There is no stream upon this line 


which, as has been supposed by Louis Napoleon and some 
other writers on this subject, can be made available for sup- 
plying this section of the proposed canal with water. The 
"Eio Tosta," of which they speak, (by which, from its de- 
scribed position, it is supposed the Rio Telica is meant, for no 
stream known as the Rio Tosta exists,) was formerly a stream 
of some size, but never furnished a quantity of water suffi- 
cient to supply an ordinary canal. The local geography of 
the plain of Leon is little known to its inhabitants; and, as 
the roads are hemmed in by impenetrable forests, it is im- 
possible for the traveller to inform himself of the minor topo- 
graphical features of the country. The Rio Telica empties 
into the Estero Dofia Paula, and it may possibly be made to 
answer a useful purpose. I have crossed it at many points 
where it has (as it has for nearly its entire length) the charac- 
ter of a huge natural canal, from sixty to eighty feet deep by 
perhaps one himdred and fifty or two hundred yards wide 
at the top, with steep banks, for the most part of a friable sub- 
stratum of rock or compact earth. And as, at its source, it 
is not more than fifteen miles distant from Lake Managua, it 
is not improbable that, by proper cuttings, the waters of the 
lake might be brought into it, and, after the necessary level is 
attained, the bed of the stream might be used from that point 
to the sea, securing the necessary depth of water by locks or 
danLs. If this suggestion is well founded, the principal part 
of the estimated excavation of this section of the canal may 
be avoided. In any event, the cutting would not, with the 
aids furnished by this mechanical age, be an object to deter 
the engineer. 

Every traveller who has passed over the plain of Leon, 
concurs in representing that the range of hills separating 
Like Nicaragua from the Pacific are here wholly interrupt- 
ed ; and I can add my unqualified testimony in support of 
the fact. The city of Leon is situated in the midst of this 
plain, midway between the lake and sea ; and, from the flat 

VOL. II. 81 • 


roof of its cathedral, the traveller may see the Pacific; and, 
were it not for the intervening forests, probably the lake. 
Mr. A. G., quoted by Louis Napoleon, and whose observa- 
tions are uniformly very accurate, states that the ground, 
between lake and ocean, at a distance of 2,725 yards fix)m 
the former, attains its maximum height of 55 feet 6 inctes, 
and from thence slopes to the sea. Other observers vary in 
their estimates of this maximum elevation, from 49 feet 6 
inches to 51 feet. Of course, the precise elevation can only 
be determined by actual survey. The city of Leon is distant, 
in a direct line, about fifteen or eighteen miles from the lake. 
Captain Belcher determined its height, above the Pacific, to 
be 140 feet ;^ which, deducted from the height of the lake, 
156 feet, shows that the plain, where it is built, is 16 feet 
below the level of the lake. 

It is probable that the deepest cutting on this line, allow- 
ing thirty feet for the depth of the proposed canal, would not 
exceed eighty feet, and this only for a short distance. "We 
have examples of much more serious undertakings of this 
character. In the canal from Aries to Bouc the table-land 
Lfeque has been cut through to the extent of 2,289 yards, 
the extreme depth being from 130 to 162 feet I need hardly 
add that the Lake of Managua must supply the water requi- 
site for the use of the canal, from its shores to the sea, as 
there are no reservoirs or streams of magnitude upon this 

Lake Managua to the Gulf or Bay of Fonseca. 

There is still another route, to which public attention has 
never been generally directed, but which, if feasible, of which 
I have no doubt, ofters greater advantages than either of the 
others just named, viz., from the northern point of Lake Ma- 
nagua via the Estero Real to the Gulf of Fonseca or Con- 
chagua. The upper jiart of Lake Managua is divided into 
two large bays by a vast promontory or peninsula, at the ex- 

' Voyage Round the World, vol i. p. 166. 


treine point of which stands the giant volcano of Momotom- 
bo. Between this volcano and that of the Viejo, to the 
north-east of Realejo, running nearly east and west, is a 
chain of volcanoes, presenting, probably, in a short distance, 
a greater number of extinct craters, and more evidences of 
volcanic action, than any other equal extent of the continent. 
This chain is isolated. Upon the south is the ipagnificent 
plain of Leon, bounded only by the sea ; and upon the north 
is also another great plain, the ^^ Llano del Ccmejo^^ bounded 
by the auriferous hills of Segovia. This plain extends from 
the northern bay of Lake Managua to the Gulf Conchagua, 
which is equalled only by that of San Francisco, and may 
be described as a grand harbor, in which all the vessels of 
the world might ride in entire security. It much resembles 
that of San Francisco in position and form ; the entrance 
from the sea is, however, broader. Its entire length within 
the land is not far from seventy miles, and its breadth forty 
miles. The three States of San Salvador, Nicaragua, and 
Honduras, have ports upon it. In respect to trade, the prin- 
cipal port on the main-land is that of La Union, in San Sal- 
vador. All the adjacent coasts are of unbounded fertility, 
and possess an unlimited supply of timber. The sides of the 
mountains, particularly of the volcano of San Miguel, are cov- 
ered with oak and pine, suitable for building and repairing 
ships. Coal is said to occur about sixty miles from the port 
of La Union, on the banks of the Rio Lempa, the roads to 
the beds leading through a level country. The Bay em- 
braces several islands of considerable size and beauty, sur- 
rounded by water, of such depth as to enable vessels of the 
largest class to approach close in-shore. The most important 
of these, from the circumstance of its size, and the fiict that it 
commands and is the key to the entire Bay, is the island of 
Tigre, belonging to Honduras. This island was the head- 
quarters and d^pot of Drake, and other piratical adventu- 
rers, during their operations in the South Sea. It is about 


twenty miles in circumference, level near the shore, but rising 
regularly and gradually to a cone in the centre ; thus afford- 
ing almost every variety of air and climate desirable. Upon 
this island is situated the free port of Amapala, recently 
established, where there are a few storehouses and dwellings. 
The rest of the island is almost wholly uninhabited. The 
possession of this island, and consequent control of the Gulf 
of Fonseca, by any great maritime power, would enable it 
to exercise a command over the commerce of the western part 
of the continent, like that which the possession of Gibraltar 
by the English, gives them to exercise over that of Europe. 

From the southern extremity of the Gulf of Fonseca, ex- 
tends a large estuary, or arm, called el Estero Real. Its course 
is precisely in the direction of the Lake of Managua; which 
it approaches to within fifteen or twenty miles, and between 
it and the lake is the Plain of Conejo, which is, in fact, a 
part of the Plain of Leon. This Estero is as broad as the 
East River at New York, and has, for most of its extent, an 
ample depth of water. At thirty miles above the Bay it 
has fifty feet. There is a narrow bar at its mouth, upon 
which, at low tide, there are but about three fathoms. The 
tide rises, however, nearly ten feet ; and with artificial aid 
the bar could, doubtless, be passed at all times. This Estero 
is one of the most beautiful natural channels that can be 
imagined; preserving, for a long distance, a very nearly uni- 
form width of from three hundred to four hundred yards. 
Its banks are lined with mangroves, with a dense back- 
ground of other trees. 

Capt. Belcher, who was here in 1838, went thirty miles up 
the Estero, in a vessel drawing ten feet of water. He says: 
" To-day we started with the Starling, and other boats, to 
explore the Estero Real, which, I had been given to under- 
stand, was navigable for sixty miles ; in which case, from 
what I saw of its course in my visit to the Viejo, it must 
nearly communicate with the Lake of Managua. After con- 


friderable labor, we succeeded in carrying the Starling thirty 
miles from its mouth, and might easily have gone farther, 
had the wind permitted, but the prevailing strong winds ren- 
dered the toil of towing too heavy. We ascended a small 
hill, about a mile below our extreme position, from which 
angles were taken to all the commanding peaks. From that 
survey, added to what I remarked from the summit of the 
Viejo, I am satisfied that the stream could be followed many 
miles farther ; and, I have not the slightest doubt, it is fed very 
near the Lake Managua. I saw the mountains beyond the lake 
on its eastern side, and tw land higher than the intervening trees 
occurred. This, therefore, would be the most advantageous 
line for a canal, which, by entire lake navigation, might be 
connected with the interior of the States of San Salvador, 
Honduras, Nicaragua, and extend to the Atlantic. Thirty 
navigable miles for vessels drawing ten feet we can vouch 
for, and the natives and residents assert sixty {thirty?) 
more !" 

From the course of the Estero, and the distance it is 
known to extend, it probably would not require a canal of 
more than twenty miles in length to connect its navigable 
waters with those of Lake Managua ; in which case there 
would be a saving over the Realejo line, besides having the 
western terminus of the great work in the magnificent Bay 
which I have just described, where every facility is afforded 
for victualling, repairing, etc., and where a local trade of 
vast importance, in sugar, cotton, indigo, cacao, and cofiee, 
would soon spring up. 

It may, therefore, be safely asserted that a passage from 
the Lake of Managua to the sea is entirely feasible, and it 
only remains to determine which of the routes here indicated 
offers the greatest advantages. In case the canal is ever 
made, I am convinced that this will be the route. My own 
observations, made from the volcano of Las Pi las, overlook- 
ing the " Llano del Conejo," as well as the concurrent reports 



of the niitives, have satisfied mc that this plain is lower than 
that of Leon, and that the excavation on this line would be 
less than on that to Realejo. 


The subjoined table exhibits the estimated distances from 
sea to sea, on the various lines already described, as alao 
the probable extent of actual canalization. It is assumed, 
throughout, that the River San Juan cannot be made navi- 
gable for ships, and that a lateral canal must be made, for ito 
entire length. The length of the river, including its wind- 
ings, is nearly ninety miles ; but it is probable that the dis- 
tance, in a right line, between the lake and the Atlantic does 
not exceed seventy miles. 















To Bay of Salinas, . 









" San Juon del Sur, 














" EsWro Real, . . 









The length of the proposed line of communication from 
San Juan to Bealejo is estimated by Louis Napoleon at 278 
mites, as follows : Length of the Snn Juan, 104 miles ; of 
Lake Nicaragua, 90 miles; River Tip itapa, 20 miles; Lake 
Leon, or Managua, 35 miles; and distance from the Lake to 
Realejo, 29 miles. This is jrasitively erroneous in some par- 
ticulars ; as, for instance, the diatanee from Lake Managua to 


Realejo, which, so far firom being only 29 miles, is actually 
from 40 to 45 miles. 


It is useless to enter into calculations respecting the proper 
size, and respecting the cost of such a work, as the proposed 
canal. Its dimensions, in order to make it fully answer the 
purpose of its construction, must be sufficiently great to admit 
the easy passage of the largest vessels. Its cost, until there 
is a detailed survey of the entire line, must be entirely a 
matter of conjecture. It has been variously estimated at from 
six to twenty-five and thirty millions of dollars. Assume it 
to cost $100,000,000, which may be as near the truth as any 
other calculation ; still it is enough to know that it is topo- 
graphically possible^ and that its benefits, immediate and pro- 
spective, will be sufficient to compensate for the expenditure 
of double that amount, startling as it may at first appear. 

But there are other circumstances, besides the actual topo- 
graphical features of the country, which must be taken in 
view, in estimating the feasibility, or rather the practicability, 
of a grand work like the proposed canal. The means of 
sustenance, climate, ability of procuring and applying labor, 
etc., must all be considered. 

In respect to climate I need not add anything to the observa- 
tions, on that subject, contained in the Introduction to this 
work. It cannot be doubted that the surveys, excavations, 
etc., on the San Juan will not only prove the most difficult of 
any section of the proposed canal, but, from the nature of 
things, be attended with greater injury to the health of those 
engaged there. The forests which line that river are dense and 
dank ; and the removal of the trees and other vegetation, 
and the consequent exposure of the rich earth — the accumu- 
lated vegetable deposit of ages — to the sun, would prove a 


prolific source of fevers and kindred diseases. The evil con- 
sequences could only be arrested by employing here, as else- 
where, the natives of this latitude, inured to labor and hard- 
ened to exposure. In fact, the principal reliance throughout 
must be upon this kind of laborers, who, for two reals (25 
cents) per day (the standard price), would flock in great, if 
not all desirable numbers, from all the States of Central 
America. For a medio (6i cents) j^er day, each man provides 
his own support, without further cost to his employer. The 
laboring population is eminently docile, and can soon be 
brought to perform any kind of simple labor, as excavating, 
clearing, quarrying, burning lime, etc., in a satisfactory man- 
ner. In a country where there are so many festival days, it 
would be necessary to keep them a little in arrears, or pos- 
sess some means of enforcing strict compliance with their con- 
tracts, to secure their constant attention to their work. This 
matter of labor, however, is a point upon which it is neces- 
sary, after the experience of the Panama Railroad Company, 
to speak with caution. It is one which, after a complete sur- 
vey of the country by competent engineers, should claim the 
first attention of the Company or Government which shall 
seriously undertake the construction of the projected canal. 

The following are the remarks made by Mr. Baily upon the 
matters here adverted to ; and, coming from a man who has 
had some experience in field operations upon the line of the 
proj)osed work, they are entitled to consideration. 

" In executing so stupendous an undertaking, salubrity of 
climate, and the means of feeding abundantly and economi- 
cally so large a body of workmen as would be collected, are 
subjects which cannot be passed over without notice. With 
regard to the first, the writer can aver that, during four 
months that he was occupied between the Pacific and the 
Lake of Granada, with a party of forty individuals, there 
was not a man prevented by sickness from performing his 
daily labor, although continually sleeping at^ night in the 


open air. On the lake, and in the river San Juan, with a 
large party, the men maintained their health well, although 
exposed to frequent rains in the latter. But when at the 
port (del Norte,) or near to it, sickness got among them, 
which was mainly attributable to the use, or rather abuse, of 
ardent spirits, and other excesses so frequently indulged in 
at such places. This change, however, is not assignable 
solely to indulgence in excesses, because San Juan is ex- 
posed to all the dangerous influences of climate and tempera- 
ture peculiar to the Mosquito shore, and all the coast from 
Cape Gracias a Dios to Carthagena, beyond it. 

"The population from the State of Nicaragua may be 
said not to extend south much beyond the environs of the 
town of Nicaragua, so that the line of survey, approaching 
it in no part nearer than four leagues, passed over a com- 
parative wilderness, and consequently all provisions were 
supplied from that place. These are always to be had in 
abundance ; and should circumstances require it, they could 
be drawn from other parts of the State to almost any extent 
The principal articles of consumption are meat (beef), maize, 
frijoles, rice, plantains, and fruits, which can be furnished at 
moderate prices ; as, for example, meat at 8 J, 4 or 4? reals the 
arroba of 25 pounds ; (the real is equal to sixpence of English 
money;) maize varying according to seasons, 6, 8, or 10, 
seldom 12 reals, perfanega, which weighs about 300 pounds; 
frijoles and rice in similar proportions ; plantains, which are 
universally used, especially by the laboring classes, are so 
plentiful that a mule-load of them, (two or three quintals,) 
can be had, throughout the year, for 2 or 2| reals ; so that 
if a large number of workmen were to be collected in this 
direction, there would be found no difficulty in supplying 
them with all the ordinary necessaries of life. 

" The price paid for labor during the survey was $7f per 
man per month, besides provisions, which, on an average, 
amounted to h^lf a real a-day ; but this was higher than 

VOL. n. 32 


what was usually given for general field work, in considera- 
tion of the men being taken to a distance from their families, 
for an indefinite time. For work such as that in question, 
good native artisans would be scarce ; but there would be 
no want of laboring hands, for the certainty and regularity of 
their pay would attract men not only from all parts of this, 
but from the adjoining States of Costa Rica, Honduras, and 
San Salvador also ; while a judicious system of equitable regu- 
lations would insure their docility and submissiveness. The 
barbarism that has been attributed to this population, in the 
writings before alluded to, needs no other refutation than 
saying that the imputation is unfounded ; nor is it, nor can 
it be, a supposable fact that the peasantry of one country 
should differ very much from that of the other adjoining it — 
the same language, habits, and customs being common to 




In the preceding chapter I have considered solely the 
question of the practicability of the projected interoceanic 
canal. The results, as affecting the commercial and pplitical 
relations and interests of the United States, next claim atten- 
tion. Before proceeding to their consideration, however, it 
will be interesting to notice, briefly, some of the measures 
which have heretofore been taken towards the construction 
of the proposed work. 

Although its feasibility was asserted early in the 16th 
century, nothing was practically attempted until late in the 
18th century, when the attention of the Spanish Government 
was called to the subject once more by Godoy, " the Prince 
of Peace," and a survey of the route was made under his 
direction. The documents relating to it still exist in the 
archives of Guatemala. After the independence of Central 
America, another attempt toward the accomplishment of the 
same object was made by SeQor Manual Antonio de la 
Cerda, afterwards Governor of the State of Nicaragua, who, 
in July 1823, urged the matter upon the Federal Congress, 
but failed in accomplishing anything at that time. 

During the year 1824, however, various propositions were 
made from abroad, in respect to the enterprise. Amongst 
these was one from Messrs. Barclay & Co., of London, bearing 
date Sept. 18, 1824. They proposed to open a navigable 
communication between the two oceans, via the River San 


Juan and Lake Nicaragua, without cost to the Government, 
provided the latter would extend the requisite assistance in 
other modes. On the 2d of Feb., 1825, other propositions 
were made, by some merchants of the United States, signed 
by Col. Chas. Bourke and Matthew Llanos, in which they 
observe that they had, in the month of December preceding, 
(1824), sent an armed brig to San Juan, having on board 
engineers and other persons charged to make a survey of 
the proposed route. They prayed, in consideration of the 
advances already made, and the evidences of good faith thus 
exhibited, that the Government would grant them, let, an 
exclusive proprietorship and control of the canal ; 2d, an 
exclusive right of navigating the lakes and dependent waters 
by steam ; 3d, free permission to use all natural products of 
the country, necessary for the work ; 4th, exemption of duty 
on goods introduced by the Company, until the completion 
of the work. In return for this, they proposed that the 
Government should receive twenty per cent, on the tolls, and 

at the end of the term of years, to surrender the 

entire work to the Government. Whether the armed brig, 
and the party of engineers referred to by these parties, ever 
reached their destination is unknown ; nor is it known that 
the Government of Central America ever took any specific 
notice of these propositions. 

The subject was nevertheless regarded as of primary 
interest throughout all Central America, and the Minister of 
that Republic in the United States, Sefior Don Antonio Jose 
Caiias, was specially instructed to bring the matter promi- 
nently before the American Government. This he did in an 
official letter, bearing date Feb. 8, 1825, addressed to Henry 
Clay, then Secretary of State. In this letter, Sr. Caiias 
solicited the cooperation of the United States, on the ground 
" that its noble conduct had been a model and a protection 
to all the Americas," and entitled it to a preference over any 
other nation, both in the " merits and advantages of the 


proposed great undertaking." He proposed also, by means 
of a treaty, " effectually to secure its advantages to the two 
nations." The Charge d' Affaires of the United States in 
Central America, Col. John Williams, was accordingly spe- 
cially instructed to assure the Government of that country 
of the deep interest taken by the United States in an under- 
taking " so highly calculated to diffuse a favorable influence 
on the affairs of mankind," to investigate with the greatest 
care the facilities offered by the route, and to remit the 
information to the United States. But it appears no informa- 
tion of the character required ever reached the American 

During this year, however, (1825,) various proposals were 
made to the Government of Central America, from abroad, 
upon the subject ; and in June of that year, the National 
Congress, with a view of determining the principles upon 
which it desired the work undertaken, passed a decree t<i 
the following purport : 

^^ Article 1. Authorizes the opening of a Canal, fitted for the passage 
of the largest vessels, in the State of Nicaragua. 

" Art. 2. The works to be of the most solid construction. 

" Art. 3. The Government shall offer to the undertakers an indemnifi- 
cation equivalent to the cost and labor of the work. 

" Art. 4. The (Government shall use all means of facilitating the object ; 
permitting the cutting of wood — assisting the Surveyors — ^forwarding the 
plans, and, generally, in every manner not injurious to public or private 

"Art. 5. No duty shall be charged on instruments and machinery 
imported for the works of the Canal. 

" Art. 6. The expense of the work shall be acknowledged as a National 
Debt, and the tolls of the Canal shall be applied to its extinguishment, 
afler deducting the necessary costs of maintenance and repairs, and the 
support of a garrison for its defence. 

" Art. 7. Any dispute regarding its liquidation or proofs of outlay, shall 
be determined according to the laws of the Republic. 

" Art. 8. The Congress shall be entitled to establish, and at all times 
alter, the rates of toll, as it may think proper. 


*' Art. 9. The navigation shall be open to aU nations, friends or nentnls, 
without privilege or exclusion. 

'' Art. 10. The Government shall maintain on the Lake the necessary 
vessels for its defence. 

"Art. 11. If invincible impediments, discovered in the course of the 
work, prevent its execution, the Republic shall not be liable to make any 
remuneration whatever. 

" Art. 12. In case only a boat canal can be opened, the indemnification 
shall be proportioned to the smaller benefit which will then result to the 

This decree was published jointly with another fixing six 
months for receiving proposals; but the term designated was 
too short for any measures to be taken on the part of com- 
panies or individuals, and the Congress only received a 
repetition of a part of the proposals before made. 

The principal of these were made by Mr. Baily and Mr. 
Charles Beniski — the first as agent for the English hoTise of 
Messrs. Barclay, Herring, Richardson & Co., and the second 
for Mr. Aaron 11. Palmer, of New York. Mr. Bailv's oflFer 
was conditional, while Mr. Beniski^s was positive, and was 
therefore accepted by the Republic. The contractors, under 
the name and style of the " Central American and United 
States Atlantic and Pacific Canal Company," were bound to 
open through Nicaragua a canal navigable for vessels of all 
sizes, and to deposit in the city of Granada the sum of 
$200,000 for the preliminary expenses, within six months ; to 
erect fortresses for the protection of the canal, and to have 
the works in progress within a period of twelve months. In 
compensation they were to have two thirds of the profits of 
the tolls upon the canal until all the capital expended in the 
work was repaid, with interest at the rate of ten per cent, 
beside afterwards receiving one-half of the proceeds of the 
canal for seven years, with certain privileges for introducing 
steam veSvSels. The Government was to put at their disposal 
all the documents relating to the subject existing in its 


archives, to permit the cutting of wood, and to furnish 
laborers at certain rates of wages. In case of non-completion, 
the works were to revert unconditionally to the Republic. 
This contract bore date June 14, 1826, and the contractors 
at once endeavored to secure the cooperation of the Govern- 
ment of the United States. A memorial was presented to 
Congress, and referred to a Committee, which reported in due 
time; but here the matter stopped, although it appears to 
have received the sanction of De Witt Clinton and other 
distinguished men. 

In fact, Mr. Palmer executed a deed of trust to Mr. Clinton, 
by which that gentleman, Stephen Van Renssalaer, C. D. 
Golden, Philip Hone, and Lynde Catlin, were constituted 
Directors of the work. Mr. Clinton's part was undertaken in 
entire good faith, and as he himself expressed it, " for the 
promotion of a great and good object, which should be kept 
free from the taint of speculation." Mr. Palmer went to 
England in 1827, to secure the cooperation of British capi- 
talists in his enterprise ; but owing to various untoward cir- 
cumstances, his mission proved abortive, and in the autumn 
of that year he appears to have abandoned the undertaking. 

Although the administration of Mr. Adams did not at 
once fall in with the proposition of the Central American 
Minister, it was not from a want of interest in the subject, 
but because it did not desire to commit the country to any 
specific course of conduct, until the feasibility of the enter- 
prise and the leading facts connected with it should be better 
known and established. In the mean time the principles 
upon which it conceived the work should be undertaken and 
executed, are well exhibited in Mr. Clay's letter of instruc- 
tions to the ministers of the United States, commissioned to 
the famous Congress of Panama. Mr. Clay said : "A canal 
for navigation between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, will 
form a proper subject of consideration at the Congress. That 
vast object, if it should ever be accomplished, will be inteiS 


esting, in a greater or less degree, to all parts of tlie world ; 
but especially to this continent will accrue its greatest bene- 
fits ; and to Colombia, Mexico, Central America, Peru, and 
the United States, more than to any other of the American 
nations. What is to redound to the advantage of all America 
should be effected by common means and united exertions, 
and not left to the separate and unassisted efforts of any one 
power. * * * If the work should ever be executed, so 
as to admit of the passage of sea vessels from one ocean to 
the other, the benefits of it ought not to be exclusively appro- 
priated by any one nation, but should be extended to all 
parts of the globe, upon the payment of just compensation 
or reasonable tolls. * * You will receive and transmit to 
this government any proposals that may be made, or plans 
that may be suggested, for its joint execution, with assurances 
that they \vi\\ be attentively examined, with an earnest desire 
to reconcile the interests and views of all the American 
nations." It will be seen that Mr. Clay, who was at that 
time a true exponent of the American system of policy, 
regarded the construction of this work as an enterprise pe<!U- 
liarly American, to be executed by the parties most deeply 
interested in it, to be under their control, but not therefore 

After the failure of Mr. Palmer's project, the whole matter 
seems to have been allowed to slumber until some time in 
October 1828, when the work was proposed to be under- 
taken by an Association of the Netherlands, under the special 
patronage of the King of Holland. In March 1829, Greneral 
Verveer arrived in Guatemala, as Plenipotentiary of the 
King of the Netherlands, with instructions regarding the 
undertaking of the canal. In consequence of civil distrac- 
tions, the subject was not taken up until the succeeding 
October, when commissioners were appointed to treat with 
Verveer, and on the 24th of July, 1830, the plan agreed 
upon between them was laid before the National Congress. 


It was ratified on the 21st of September following. The 
principal features of the agreement were as follows : 

1st The proposed canal to be open on the same terms to all nations at 
peace with Central America ; but vessels engaged in the slave trade, and 
all privateers, not to be allowed either to pass the canal or hover in the 
vicinity of its mouths. 

2d. Armed ships not allowed to pass without the express consent of 
the Government of the Republic, and this permission never to be granted 
to a flag at war with any other nation. 

3d. The Government to use all its endeavors to have the neutrality of 
the canal recognized by all maritime powers, as abo tliat of the ocean for 
a certain extent around its mouths. 

4th. The Republic to make no charge for the land used by the canal, 
or the raw materials used for its construction ; nor to impose taxes on per- 
sons employed in the work, who were to be under the protection of the 
agents of the country to which they might belong. 

5th. The work to be of sufficient dimensions to admit the largest ships ; 
and the execution to be lefl entirely to the parties undertaking it^ and to 
be made wholly at their expense. 

6th. The interest on the capital expended to be ten per cent, and as 
security for both capital and interest^ a mortgage to be granted upon the 
lands for a league on both sides of the canal. 

7th. The canal to remain in the hands of the contractors, until it had paid 
cost of construction and repairs, with ten per cent annual interest thereon, 
and also until it had paid three millions of dollars, to be advanced as a loan 
to the Government, and then to revert unconditionally to the Republic 

8th. The rate of tolls to be regulated by the Government and contract- 
ors jointly, but always in such a manner as to give it a decided advantage 
over Cape Horn. 

9th. A free commercial city to be founded on the banks, or at one of 
the entrances of the canal, which, while enjoying entire freedom of trade, 
religious tolerance, a municipal government, trial by jury, and exemption 
from military service, to constitute nevertheless a part of the Republic, 
and to be under the special protection thereof. 

10th. In respect to navigation and commerce generally, the Netherlands 
to be put upon a footing of equality with the United States. 

Arrangements were accordingly made to send envoys to 
the Netherlands, with full powers to perfect the plan ; and, 
VOL. n. 33 


for a time, the work seemed in a fair way to a commence- 
ment ; but the revolution of Belgium and the separation of 
Holland put an end to these hopes. The news of these 
events was received with profound regret. Mr. Henry Sa- 
vage, U. S. Consul, in a letter to Mr. Van Buren, dated Guate- 
mala, December 3, 1830, said : " All concur, and every one 
now seems tacitly to look forward to the United States for 
the completion of this grand project. They say that the 
United States, identilQed in her institutions with this Govern- 
ment, ought to have the preference." 

In 1832 endeavors were made to renew the n^odations 
with Holland, and the State of Nicaragua passed resolutions 
agreeing to the propositions of the Dutch Envoy, but nothing 
was accomplished. 

Upon the 3d of March, 1835, public attention having again 
been directed to the subject, a resolution passed the Senate 
of the United States, " that the President be requested to 
consider the expediency of oi>ening negotiations with the 
Governments of other nations, and particularly with the 
Governments of Central America and New Granada, for the 
purpose of eflfectually protecting, by suitable treaty stipula- 
tions with them, such individuals or companies as may 
undertake to open a communication from the Atlantic to the 
Pacific Ocean, by means of a ship canal across the isthmus 
which connects North and South America, and of securing 
for ever, by means of such stipulations, the free and equal 
right of navigating such canal to all nations, on the payment 
of such reasonable tolls as may be established to compensate 
the capitalists who may engage in such imdertaking and 
complete the work." 

Under this resolution, a special agent, (Mr. Charles Biddle,) 
was appointed by General Jackson, to proceed without delay, 
by the most direct route, to the port of San Juan de Nica- 
ragua, ascend the river San Juan to the Lake of Nicaragua, 
and thence proceed across the continent, by the contemplated 


route of the proposed canal or railroad, to the Pacific Ocean ; 
after which examination, he was directed to repair to Guate- 
mala; the capital of the Bepublic, and, with the aid of Mr. 
De Witt, the Charge d' Affaires of the United States, procure all 
such public documents connected with the subject as might be 
in existence, and especially copies of all such laws as had 
been passed, and contracts and conventions as had been 
made, to carry into effect the undertaking, and also all plans, 
surveys, or estimates in relation to it. From Guatemala he 
was directed to proceed to Panama, and make observations 
and inquiries relative to the proposed connection of the two 
oceans at that point. Unfortunately, from the diflSculties of 
procuring conveyances to San Juan, the agent went to Pana- 
ma first. From adverse circumstances, he never reached Nica- 
ragua, and died soon after his return to the United States. 
He nevertheless made a partial report concerning the Isth- 
mus of Panama, to the effect that it was not practicable for 
a canal. 

In 1837, the subject was again taken up in Central 
America, by General Morazan, who resolved to have the 
proposed line of the canal properly surveyed, intending to 
raise a loan in Europe for the execution of the work. Mr. 
John Baily was employed for the former purpose, but his 
work was brought to a sudden close by the dissolution of the 
Government of the Republic. He nevertheless made a sur- 
vey of the narrow isthmus intervening between Lake Nica- 
ragua and the Pacific, and also some observations on the 
Biver San Juan. 

In 1838 a convention was made between the States of 
Nicaragua and Honduras, under which Mr. Peter Bouchaud 
was authorized to conclude an agreement in France, for the 
formation of a company to make a canal, and for other 
objects ; but he effected nothing. The same result attended 
the efforts of Sefior Don George Viteri, subsequently Bishop 
of San Salvador, who was sent Ambassador to Borne. 


In the same year Mr. George Holdship, representing a 
company composed chiefly of citizens of the United States, 
residing in New Orleans and New York, among whom was 
Mr. Soul^ of the former city, arrived in Central America, 
with a view of contracting for the opening of the canal with 
the General Government. Finding that Nicaragua had 
"pronounced" against Morazan, and assumed an independent 
position, he proceeded to that State, where he at once en- 
tered into a contract, which provided for opening the canal, 
for the establishment of a bank to assist the enterprise, and 
for colonization on an extensive scale. He returned to the 
United States, and the matter ended. 

This year was also signalized by some further movements 
on the subject, in the United States. A petition was pre- 
sented to Congress, signed by several citizens of New York 
and Philadelphia, viz., Aaron Clark, Wm. A Duer, Herman 
Leroy, Matthew Carey, and Wm. RadcliSi setting forth that 
the wants of trade required the opening of a ship communi- 
cation between the Atlantic and Pacific ; that the accumula- 
tion of wealth amongst nations and the prevalence of peace 
seemed to indicate a favorable opportunity for the under- 
taking; and recommending "that an extensive and powerful 
combination should be formed, and the most judicious and 
liberal measures adopted, for the purpose of carrying the 
plan into effect, and securing its benefits permanently to the 
world at large." This memorial was referred to a committee, 
of which the Hon. Chas. F. Mercer was Chairman, who, 
March 2, 1839, made a report upon it, concluding with the 
following resolution, which was adopted : 

" Resolvedj That the President of the United States be requested to 
consider the expediency of opening or continuing negotiations with the 
governments of other nations, and particularly with those the territorial 
jurisdiction of which comprehends the Isthmus of Panama, and to which 
the United States have accredited ministers or agents, for the purpose of 
ascertaining or eflfecting a communication between the Atlantic and 


Pacific Oceans, by the construction of a ship canal ; and of securing for- 
ever, by suitable treaty stipulations, the free and equal right of navigating 
such canal to all nations, on the payment of reasonable tolls." 

The subsequent action, both of the Executive and C!on- 
gress, was directed to the opening of a route across the 
Isthmus of Panama, and resulted in the negotiation of a 
treaty between the United States and New Granada, by 
which the neutrality of the Isthmus was guarantied by the 
former, in consideration of a free transit conceded by the 
latter. Under this treaty, the existing Panama Eailroad 
Company was organized, and that route of communication 
between the two oceans placed in American hands. 

The disturbances incident to the dissolution of the Eepub- 
lic of Central America precluded any serious attention to the 
project of a canal, from 1838 until 1844, when Sefior Don 
Francisco Castellon, having been appointed Minister from 
Nicaragua to France, and failing to interest that Government, 
entered into a contract with a Belgian company, under the 
auspices of the Belgian King, for the construction of the 
work. The grant was for sixty years, at the end of which 
time it was to revert to the State without indemnity, the 
State receiving meantime an interest of ten per cent, in the 

Still later, in April, 1846, a contract was made by Mr. 
Marcoleta, Nicaraguan Charge d' Affaires to Belgium, with 
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, then a prisoner at Ham, which 
differed but little from the preceding one, except that the 
canal was to be called " Oanal Napoleon de Nicaragua^ 
Beyond the publication of a pamphlet upon the subject, under 
the initials of Bonaparte, this attempt also proved abortive. 

So the matter rested until 1849, when the acquisition of 
California by the United States, and the discovery there of 
vast mineral wealth, again directed public attention to the 
project, in a more serious manner than at any previous 


period. It now began to assume a practical form, and, as a 
consequence, there was a renewal of propositions to the 
Government of Nicaragua. The first of these, in the form of 
bases subject to future adjustment, came, under date of 16th 
of February, from Mr. William Wheelwright, the projector 
of the British line of steamers on the western coast of South 
America, upon behalf of an English company. It embodied, 
substantially, the provisions of the contract of 1844 with \Uc 
Belgian company, but was never acted upon by the Nica- 
raguan Government. 

The second was in the form of a detailed contract, and was 
entered into between Mr. D. T. Brown, representing certain 
citizens of New York, and General Mufioz, Commissioner of 
the Nicaraguan Government, on the 14th of March, 1849. 
It, however, never received the sanction of the Executive, 
nor was it ratified by the company within the time stipulated 
bv its terms. 

In the meantime, however, namely, as early as January 
1848, when it became evident that the Mexican war could 
only terminate in large territorial acquisitions to the United 
States, the Port of San Juan de Nicaragua, the only possible 
eastern terminus of the proposed canal, was seized by Great 
Britain, under the pretext of supporting the territorial rights 
of a savage, facetiously styled " King of the Mosquitos." 
This act could not be viewed with indifference by the 
Government of our own country; for it not only violated the 
principle constantly recognized and asserted by the United 
States, that the routes of transit between the two oceans 
should be free to the whole world, uncontrolled by any great 
maritime power, but it violated also a principle early and 
well established amongst the American nations, namely, the 
exclusion of all foreign, and especially monarchical, inter 
ference from the domestic and international affairs of this 
continent. The real purpose of the seizure of San Juan was 
too apparent to escape detection ; and the Government of the 


United States, upon these principles, would have been bound 
to interpose against the consummation of the felony. But it 
was specially bound to interpose, after it had been earnestly 
and repeatedly solicited to do so by the injured Eepublic in 
question. These solicitations were forcibly made, in letters 
addressed to the President of the United States by the 
Supreme Director of Nicaragua, dated Dec. 15, 1847, as also 
in letters from the Secretary of State of that Republic, of the 
dates respectively of Nov. 12, 1847, and March 17, 1848. 
" The obvious design of Great Britain," said the Director of 
Nicaragua, " in seizing upon the Port of San Juan, and set- 
ting up pretensions to sovereignty, in behalf of savage tribes, 
within the territories of Nicaragua, is to found colonies, and 
to make herself master of the prospective intcroceanic cxinal, 
for the construction of which this Isthmus alone has the 
requisites of feasibility and facility." 

Although the matter was thus brought before the Amer- 
ican Government, it does not seem to have elicited any 
action beyond certain instructions from Mr. Buchanan, then 
Secretary of State, to Mr. Hise, appointed Charge d'Affaires 
to Central America. " The object of Great Britain in this 
seizure," said Mr. Buchanan, "is evident from the policy 
which she has uniformly pursued throughout her history, of 
seizing upon every valuable commercial point in the world, 
whenever circumstances have placed it in her power. Her 
purpose probably is to obtain the control of the route for a 
railroad and canal between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, 
by way of Lake Nicaragua." But while insisting upon the 
policy of " excluding all interference on the part of European 
Governments in the domestic affairs of the American Repub- 
lics," Mr. Buchanan gave no specific instructions as to the 
line of conduct to be pursued by Mr. Hise, in respect to the 
proposed canal or the British usurpation. He confined him- 
self to a denial of the British pretensions, and concluded by 
observing that " the Government of the United States has 


not yet determined what course it will pursue in regard to 
the encroachments of the British Government." 

About this time, viz., under date of April 4, 1849, Mr. 
Manning, British Vice Consul in Nicaragua, wrote to Lord 
Palmerston as follows : 

'•My opinion, if your lordship will allow me to express it, as regards 
this country for the present, is, that it will be overrun by American adven- 
turers, and consequently bring on Her Majesty's Grovemment disagreeable 
communications with that of the United States, which possibly might be 
avoided by an immediate negotiation with Mr. Castillon for a protectorate 
and transit Juvorahle to British interests. * * The welfare of my country, 
and the desire of its obtaining the control of so desirable a spot in the eom^ 
mercial worlds and free it from the competition of so adventuroiis a race 
as tlie North Americans, induces me to address your lordship with such 

Upon his arrival in Central America, Mr. Hise became 
speedily convinced that the whole scope of British policy in 
that country was directed to acquiring permanent control of 
the Nicaraguan isthmus. Deeply impressed with the impor- 
tance to the United States of a free transit across it, although 
not empowered to treat with Nicaragua, he nevertheless con- 
ceived himself authorized, under the circumstances, in open- 
ing negotiations with the Government of that Republic' 
He therefore requested the appointment of a commissioner 
for that purpose, to meet him in Guatemala, where, upon the 
21st of June, 1849, a special convention relating to this sub- 
ject, was agreed upon. The provisions of this convention, it 

1 u 

I was induced with all possible despatch to conclude this treaty, be- 
cause I had information, from authentic sources, that English companies 
were endeavoring to procufe for themselves the privileges which I hare 
thus secured, and that the British Government, by encroachments and 
aggressions at the mouth and on the borders of the river San Juan, de- 
signed to so embarrass the subject, and to present such obstacles in the 
way, as to defeat altogether the project of making a ship canal between 
the two oceans." — Mr. Ilise to the Secretary of State. 


is not to be denied, were, in some respects, extraordinary, and 
not in entire harmony with the established exterior policy of 
the United States. It provided, 

1st That the United States should enjoy the perpetual right of way 
through the tenitories of Nicaragua, by any means of conveyance then 
existing or which might thereafter be devised. 

2d. That the United States, or a company chartered by it, might con- 
struct a railroad or canal from one ocean to the other, and occupy such 
lands and use such natural materials and products of the country as might 
be necessary for the purpose. 

3d. That the United States should have the right to erect such forts on 
the line, or at the extremities of the proposed work, as might be deemed 
necessary or proper for its protection. 

4th. That the vessels and citizens of all nations at peace with both 
contracting powers might pass freely through the canal 

5th. That a section of land two leagues square at either termination 
should be set apart to serve as the sites of two free cities, under the pro- 
tection of both governments, the inhabitants of which should enjoy com- 
plete municipal and religious freedom, trial by jury, exemption from all 
military duty, and from taxation, etc., etc. 

5th. That in return for these and other concessions, which it is unneces- 
sary to enumerate, the United States should defend and protect Nicaragua, 
her territorial rights, her sovereignty, preserve the peace and neutrality of 
her coasts, etc., etc., which guarantees were to extend to any community 
of States of which Nicaragua might voluntarily become a member. 

But while Mr. Hise was thus occupied in Central America, 
the administration of General Taylor had been inaugurated. 
The aflEairs of that country attracted his immediate atten- 
tion. The letters addressed by the Government of Nicaragua 
to Mr. Polk and Mr. Buchanan, and which had remained 
unanswered, were replied to in the friendliest spirit ; and be- 
fore the expiration of the first month of General Taylor's 
term of office, Mr. Hise was recalled, and the writer of these 
pages appointed, in his stead, as Charge d' Affaires of the Uni- 
ted States to Guatemala, besides receiving special commissions 
to the other States of Central America, with full powers to 

VOL. II. 34 


treat with them separately, on all matters aflfecting their rela- 
tions with this Republic. It will be seen,' therefore, that 
Mr. Hise was not only not empowered to treat with Nicara- 
ragua, but also that his negotiations were undertaken after 
the date of his letter of recall, which, however, &iled to 
reach him until after the signing of the special convention, 
and after my arrival in the country. Under these circum- 
stances, and having meantime determined upon a specific 
line of policy, this convention was neither approved by the 
American Government, nor accepted by that of Nicaragua. 

The spirit in which the matter was taken up by the admin- 
istration of General Taylor, and the principles upon which 
its action was predicated, are fully and clearly exhibited in 
the following passages from the instructions addressed to me 
by Mr. Clayton, Secretary of State. After disproving, in an 
unanswerable manner, the pretensions of Great Britain on 
the Mosquito shore, Mr. Clayton submits the following sig- 
nificant question, and equally significant reply : 

" Will other nations interested in a free passaf^e to and from the Pacific^ 
by the river San Juan and Lake Nicaragua, tamely allow that intorest to 
be thwarted by the pretensions of Great Britain ? As regards the United 
States, the question may be confidently answered in the negative. 

" Having now," continues the Secretary of State, ''suflSciently apprised 
you of the views of the Department in regard to the title to the Mosquito 
Coast, I desire you to understand how important it is deemed by the 
President, so to conduct all our negotiations on the subject of the Xica- 
raguan passage as not to involve this country in any entangling alliances 
on the one hand, or any unnecessary controversy on the other. We 
desire no monopoly of the right of way for our commerce, and we cannot 
submit to it if claimed for that of any other nation. If we held and en- 
joyed such a monopoly, it would entail upon us more bloody and expen- 
sive wars than the sti'uggle for Gibraltar has caused to England and Spain. 
The same calamity would infalUbly be cast upon any other nation claim- 
ing to exclude the commerce of the rest of the world. We only ask an 
equal right of passage for all nations on the same terms — a passage unin- 
cumbered by oppressive restrictions, either from the local Government 


within whose sovereign limits it may be efifected, or from the proprietors 
of the canal when accomplished. To this end we are willing to enter into 
treaty stipulations with the Government of Nicaragua, that both Govern- 
ments shall protect and defend tlie proprietors who may succeed in cut- 
ting the canal and opening water communication between the two oceans 
for our commerce. Without such protection, it is not believed this great 
enterprise would ever be successful. Nicaragua is a feeble State, and 
capitalists, proverbially a timid race, may apprehend from the rapacity of 
great maritime powers the obstruction and even the seizure of the canal. 
Similar apprehensions on their part, from revolutions in the local govern- 
ment, from the oppressions and exactions of temporary chieftains, and 
from causes not necessary to be explained, may operate to retard a work 
in regard to which it may be safely predicted, that, when successfully 
accomplished, its benefits to mankind will transcend those of any similar 
work known in the history of the world. All these apprehensions may 
and will be removed by the solemn pledge of protection given by the 
United States, and especially when it is known that our object in giving 
it is not to acquire for ourselves any exclusive or partial advantages over 
other nations. Nicaragua will be at libferty to enter into the same treaty 
stipulations with any other nation that may claim to enjoy the same bene- 
fits and will agree to be bound by the same conditions. In desiring that 
our citizens may obtain the charter or grant of the right to make the canal, 
we do not mean to be misunderstood. Our purpose, in aiding American 
citizens to obtain the grant, is to encourage them in a laudable effort; 
relying, as their own Government docs, more on their skill and enterprise 
than on those of others. If they themselves prefer to unite with their own 
the capital of foreigners, who may desire to embark in the undertaking, 
this (Government will not object to that. We should naturally be proud 
of such an achievement as an Amencan work ; but if European aid be 
necessary to accomplish it, why should we repudiate it, seeing that our 
object is as honest as it is openly avowed, to claim no peculiar privileges, 
no exclusive right, no monopoly of commercial intercourse, but to see that 
the work is dedicated to the benefit of mankind, to be used by all on the 
same terms with us, and consecrated to the enjoyment and diffusion of 
the unnumbered and inestimable blessings which must flow from it to all 
the civilized worlij You will not want arguments to induce Nicaragua 
to enter into such a treaty with us. The canal will be productive of more 
benefit to her than any other country of the same limits. With the aid 
of the treaty it may — without such protection from some power equal to 
our own it cannot — be accomplished. Let your negotiations with her be 
frank, open, and unreserved, as to all of our purposes. 


" The same reasons for our interference must be avowed to the Cftpitalf> 
ists who engage in the work. Before you treat for their protection, look 
well to their contract with Nicaragua. See that it is not assignable to 
others ; that no exclusive privileges are granted to any nation that diall 
agree to the same treaty stipulations with Nicaragua ;' that the tolls to be 
demanded by the owners are not unreasonable or oppressive; that no 
power be reserved to the proprietors of the canal, or their successors, to 
extort at any time henceforth, or unjustly to obstruct or embarrass the 
right of passage. This will require all your vigilance and skilL If they 
do not agree to grant us passage on reasonable and proper terms, refuse 
our protection and countenance to procure the contract from Nicaragua. K 
a charter or grant of the right of way shall have been incautiously or in- 
considerately made before your arrival in the country, seek to have it 
properly modified to answer the ends we have in view." 

Upon arriving in Nicaragua, I found there a gentleman 
representing Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt and his associates, citi- 
zens of New York, the object of whose mission was to pro- 
cure a charter or grant for the construction of a canal 
through the territories of that Republic. Having previously 
entertained so many projects for the accomplishment of this 
object, all of which had failed, the Government of Nicara- 
gua was indisposed to listen to any further propositions, 
until it was assured, as I was authorized to assure i^ 
that the American Government was willing to extend its 
guarantees to any charter, of a proper character, which might 
now be granted. Under the confidence inspired by this as- 
surance, it proceeded with alacrity to arrange the terms of a 
charter, more liberal than any ever before conceded, which 
was signed on the 27th of August, 1849, and ratified on the 
23d of the month following. 

The terms of this grant are very well known; yet the fol- 
lowing synopsis of its provisions will not prove out of place 
in this connection. It provides, 

1st That the American Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company may 
construct a ship canal, at its own expense, from the Port of San Juan, or 


any more feasible point on the Atlantic, to the Port of Realejo, or any 
other point within the territories of the Eepubhc, on the Pacific, and make 
use of all lands, waters, or natural materials of the country, for the enter- 

2d. The dimensions of the canal shall be sufficiently great to admit 
vessels of all sizes. 

3d. The grant is for the period of eighty-five years from the completion 
of the work ; the preliminary surveys to be commenced within twelve 
months; the work to be completed in twelve years, unless unforeseen 
events, such as earthquakes or wars, shall intervene to prevent it ; if 
not completed within that time, the charter to be forfeit, and whatever 
work may have been done to revert to the State ; at the end of eighty- 
five years the work to revert to the State, free from all indemnity for the 
capital invested ; the Company, nevertheless, to receive fifteen per cent, 
annually of the net profits, for ten years thereafter, if the entire cost 
shall not exceed $20,000,000 ; but if it does exceed that sum, then it shall 
receive the same per centage for twenty years thereafter. 

4th. The Company to pay to the State ten thousand dollars upon the rati- 
fication of the contract, and ten thousand dollars annually, until the com- 
pletion of the work ; also, to give to the State two hundred thousand 
dollars of stock in the canal, upon the issue of stock ; the State to have the 
privilege of taking five hundred thousand dollars of stock in the enter- 
prise ; to receive, for the first twenty years, twenty per cent annually 
out of the net profits of the canal, after deducting the interest on the capi- 
tal actuaUy invested, at the rate of seven per cent ; and also to receive 
twenty-five per cent thereafter, until the expiration of the grant. 

5th. The Company to have the exclusive right of navigating the inte- 
rior waters of the State by steam, and the privilege, within the twelve 
years allowed for constructing the canal, of opening any land or other 
route or means of transit or conveyance across the State; in consideration 
of which, the Company shall pay, irrespective of interest, ten per cent of 
the net profits of such transit to the State, and transport, both on such 
route, and on the canal, when finished, the officers of the Government and 
its employees, when required to do so, free of charge. 

6th. The canal to be open to the vessels of all nations, subject only to 
certain fixed and uniform rates of toll, to be established by the Company, 
with the sanction of the State, graduated to induce the largest and most 
extended business by this route ; these rates not to be altered without six 
months previous notice, both in Nicaragua and the United States. 

7th. The contract, and the rights and privileges conceded by it, to be 
held inalienably by the individuals composing the Company. 


8th. All disputes to be settled by referees or commissioners^ to be ap- 
pointed in a specified manner. 

9th. All machinery and other articles introduced into the State for the 
use of the Company, to enter free of duty ; and all persons in its employ 
to enjoy all the privileges of citizens, without being subjected to taxation 
or military service. 

10th. The State concedes to the Company, for purposes of colonization, 
eight sections of land on the line of the canal, in the valley of the Ri^er 
San Juan, each six miles square, and at least three miles apart, with the 
right of aUenating the same, under certain reservations; all settlers on 
these lands to be subject to the laws of the country, being, however, ex- 
empt for ten years from aU taxes, and also from all public service, as sooQ 
as each colony shall contain fifly settlers. 

11th. ''Art XXXVI. It is expressly stipulated that the citizens, 
sels. products, and manufactures of all nations shall be permitted to 
upon the proposed canal through the territories of Nicaragua, subject to 
no other nor higher duties, charges, or taxes, than shall be imposed upon 
those of the United States ; provided always^ that such nations shall first 
enter into the same treaty stipulations and guarantees, respecting said 
canal, as may be entered into between the State of Nicaragua and the 
United States." 

The article providing that the contract shall be held in- 
alienably by the individuals of the Company, was drawn tip 
by myself, to guard against the probability of its being made 
a mere cloak for stock gambling. It originally provided 
that the Canal Company should "not become dependent 
upon, or connected with, any other company, whatever its 
objects." The latter provision was left out, at the solicita- 
tion of the Company, when the contract was subsequently 

Article xxxvi., which is quoted in full, was also drawn up 
by myself, and its insertion insisted on, in conformity with 
my instructions. The simple object was, to put upon the 
same footing with the United States every nation which 
sliould undertake the same obligations with ourselves, in re- 
spect to the proposed work. These obligations were dis- 
tinctly set forth in the Treaty of Commerce and Friendshq> 


^^^li was n^otiated, simultaneously, with the Nicaraguan 
^*^^enunent, and which, in Article xxxv., provided as fol- 

"article xxxv. 

It 18 and has been stipulated, by and between the high contracting 

'^Ist That the citizens, vessels, and merchandise of the United States 
^^ enjoy in all the ports and harbors of Nicaragua, upon both oci'ans, a 
^tal exemption from all portK^hargcs, tonnage or anchorage duties, or any 
Other similar charges now existing, or which may hereafter be estabUshed, 
in manner the same as if said ports had been declared Free Ports. And 
it is further stipulated, that tlie right of way or transit across the territories 
of Nicaragua^ by any route or upon any mode of communication at present 
existing; or which may hereafter be constructed, shall at all times be open 
•od free to the Government and citizens of the United States, for all law- 
kl purposes whatever ; and no tolls, duties, or charges of any kind shall 
be imposed upon the transit in whole or part, by such modes of communi- 
cation, of vessels of war, or other property belonging to the Government 
of the United States, or on public moils sent under tlie authority of the 
same, or upon persons in its employ, nor upon citizens of the United 
States, nor upon vessels belonging to them. And it is also stipulated that 
all lawful produce, manufactures, mercliandise, or other property belonging 
to citizens of the United States, passing from one ocean to the other, in 
either direction, for the purpose of exportation to foreign countries, shall 
not be subject to any import or export duties whatever ; or if citizens of 
the United States, having introduced such produce, manufactures, or mer- 
chandise into the State of Nicaragua, for sale or exchangi*, shall, within 
three years thereafter, determine to export the same, they shall be enti- 
tled to drawback equal to four fiftlis of the amount of duties paid u]>on 
their importation. 

" 2d. And inasmuch as a contract was entered into on the twenty- 
seventh day of August, 1849, between the Republic of Nioarajnia ond a 
company of citizens of the United States, styled the ' American Atlantic 
ind Pacific Ship Canal Company,' and in order to secure tlie construction 
tnd permanence of the great work tliereby contemplated, both high con- 
tracting parties do severally and jointly agree to protect and defend the 
above-named Company in the full and perfect enjoyment of said work, 
from its inception to its completion, and after its completion, from any acts 
of invasion, forfeiture, or violence, from whatever quarter the same may 


proceed; and to give full cHect to the stipulations here nuule, and to 
secure for the benefit of mankind the uninterrupted advantages of 
communication from sea to sea, the United States distinctly 
the rights of sovereignty and property which the State of Nicmngna 
possesses in and over the Une of said canal, and for the same reason 
guaranties, positively and eflicaciously, the entire neutrality of the same, 
so long as it shall remain under the control of citizens of the United 
States, and so long as the United States shall enjoy the privileges secured 
to them in the preceding section of this article. 

"3d. But if, by any contingency, the above-named 'American Atlantic 
and Pacific Ship Canal Company' shall fail to comply with the terms of 
their contract with the State of Nicaragua, all the rights and privileges 
which said contract confers shall accrue to any Ck)mpany of citizens of the 
United States which shall, within one year ader the official declaration of 
failure, undertake to comply with its provisions, so far as the same may 
at that time be applicable, provided the company thus assuming said con- 
tract shall first present to the President and Secretary of State of the 
United States satisfactory assurances of their intention and ability to 
comply with the same ; of which satisfactory assurances the signature of 
the Secretary of State and the seal of the Department shall be complete 

" 4th. And it is also agreed, on tlie part of the Repubhc of Nicaragnay 
that none of the rights, privileges, and immunities guarantied, and by the 
preceding articles, but especially by the first section of this artidCi con- 
ceded to the United States and its citizens, shall accrue to any other 
nation, or to its citizens, except such nation shall first enter into the 
treaty stipulations, for the defence and protection of the proposed 
interoceanic canal, which have been entered into by the United States^ in 
terms the same with those embraced in section 2d of this article." 

The provisions of this article were not only in conformity 
with my instructions, but their inevitable tendency and 
design was, to make it to the interest of every nation in the 
world to maintain the neutralitv of the canal, and the inde- 
pendcnce and territorial integrity of Nicaragua. They 
secured to the United States every desirable privilege in her 
intercourse, commercial or otherwise, with Nicaragua; yet 
those privileges were in no wise exclusive; they would 
accrue to every other nation, upon the same conditions ; con- 


ditions to which no nation except England could possibly 
object, and she only in the event of insisting upon her pre- 
posterous pretensions on what is called the Mosquito Shore. 

And this is precisely the reason why the treaty containing 
this article was met by the unqualified hostility of the British 
Government ; it placed England in a position of antagonism 
to the whole world, and made it to the interest of every 
maritime country that she should relinquish her hold on 
San Juan. To avoid the alternative which the consumma- 
tion of this treaty would impose, the utmost eflforts of her 
diplomacy were put forth to defeat its acceptance by the 
contracting parties. In Nicaragua these eflTorts signally 
failed; the treaty was unanimously ratified by the Legis- 
lative Chambers, simultaneously with the Canal Contract, on 
the 23d of September, 1849. It was at once despatched to 
the United States, approved by General Taylor and his 
Cabinet, and submitted, in conformity with the requirements 
of the Constitution, to the Senate for its ratification. It 
reached that body at an unfortunate period, when Congress 
was distracted with questions growing out of the existence of 
.slavery in the United States, and, for this and other reasons, 
did not receive immediate attention. 

Meantime the nation was shocked by the death of Gen. 
Taylor. This event was followed by the installation of a 
new Cabinet, and a general change in the foreign policy of 
the Government — a policy eminently distinguished as having 
been clear, bold, and decided, worthy of a country holding 
the first rank amongst nations. The British Envoy at 
Washington, deeming the opportunity favorable for his pur- 
pose, redoubled his exertions to procure the rejection of the 
treaty, or its essential modification, so as to do away with 
the alternative, so fatal to British designs, which its terms 
imposed. Communication after communication reached the 
State Department from this zealous and active officer, in 
which the circumstance that Gen. Taylor's administration 

VOL. II. 85 


condescended to enter into treaty relations with Nicaragua, 
was abundantly ridiculed, and the feeble Government of 
Nicaragua, in its jyersonnel, as in its powers and purposes, 
not only ridiculed as ignorant, weak, and poor, but unspar- 
ingly denounced as faithless and corrupt. One of these 
letters, subsequently communicated by Mr. Webster to the 
Committee of Foreign Eolations of the Senate, contained Mr. 
Bulwer's substitute for the obnoxious article in question; the 
acceptance of which substitute, by the American Grovem- 
ment, was urged upon every ground, and by every appeal, 
likely to influence the officer to whom it was addressed. 

It is not my purpose to pursue this historical relation 
further, or to recount the proceedings which followed on these 
extraordinary movements of the British Envoy. They will 
constitute a singular, and very interesting, perhaps astound- 
ing, chapter, in the history of our Foreign Eelations. It is 
enough to know that Congress adjourned without action 
upon the treaty ; that a subsequent session passed with the 
same result ; and that up to this time nothing has been done 
to vindicate our broken faith to Nicaragua, or retrieve the 
national honor, impaired by the failure to fulfill our portion 
of the compact entered into with her, in the summer of 1849. 

It should, however, be mentioned, in order to complete 
this resume of proceedings connected with the proposed 
canal, that a convention, generally known as the " Clayton 
and Bulwer Treaty," was concluded between the United 
States and Great Britain, April 19, 1850, and proclaimed in 
July of the same year, which provided, in general terms, for 
the joint protection of that work by the contracting powers. 
It stipulates : 

1st. That neither party " will ever obtain or maintain for itself any ex- 
clusive control over" this canal, or erect fortifications commanding the 
same or in its vicinity, " or occupy or colonize, or assume or exercise do- 
minion over Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito shore, or any part of 
Central America, nor make use of any protection which either affords^ or <wiy 
alliance which either has or may havej" for the purpose of erecting, or for- 


tifying, or colonizing the region above named, or any part of it, or for the 
purpose of *^ assuming or exercising dominion over the same" nor will 
either party make use of its relations with those countries to procure ex- 
clusive privileges for itself or its subjects in the proposed canal 

2d. Neither party will capture or detain the vessels of the other while 

passing through the canal, or while within distance of either of its 


3d. To protect the parties undertaking the construction of the canal, 
from " unjust detention, seizure, or violence." 

4th. To use their influence respectively to facilitate the work, and their 
good offices, to procure the establishment of a free port at either end, 

5th. To guaranty the neutrality of the canal, so long as the proprietors 
shall not make unfair discriminations on vessels in transit, or impose un- 
reasonable tolls; to enter into treaties with the Central American States 
to promote the work ; to interpose their good offices to settle all disputes 
concerning it, etc., etc. 

Gth. Both governments to lend their support to such company as shall 
first present evidences of its intention and ability to undertake the work, 
with the consent of the local governments ; one year to be allowed from 
the date of the ratification of the convention, for the company now in ex- 
istence to ^^ present evidence of sufficient capital subscribed to accomplish the 
undertaking j' it being understood that if, in that time, no such evidence 
shall be presented, then both governments shall be at liberty to afford 
their protection to any person or company which shall then be prepared 
to commence and proceed with the work in question. 

7th. The same general protection to extend to every practicable route 
of communication across the continent, on the same principles. 

This treaty was ratified, less on the merits of the guaranty 
which' it extended to the projected xianal, than because it 
was understood to put an end to the obnoxious protectorate, 
amounting to absolute dominion, of Great Britain on the 
Mosquito shore. Such was the understanding of the treaty 
by Mr. Clayton, the negotiator on the part of the United 
States, who, in a despatch under date of May 7, 1850, said, 
in reference to it : ' 

Department of State, ) 
Washington, May 7, 1850. ) 

* ♦ ♦ ♦ " It is proper that I should now inform you that I have 

negotiated a treaty with Sir Henry Bulwer, the object of which is to se- 


cure the protection of the British Government to the Nicaraguan Canal, 
and to liberate Central America from the dominion of any foreign power. 

" I hope and believe that this treaty will prove equally honorable both to 
Great Britain and the United States, the more especially as it secures the 
weak sister Republics of Central America from foreign aggression. AD 
other nations that shall navigate the canal will have to become guarantors 
of the neutrality of Central America and the Mosquito coast The agree- 
ment is, *not to erect or maintain any fortifications commanding the 
canal, or in the vicinity thereof; nor to occupy, fortify, colonize, or assume 
or exercise any dominion whatever over any part of Nicaragua, Costa 
Rica, the Mosquito coast, or Central America ; nor to make use of any 
protection or alliance, for any of these purposes.' 

" Great Britain having thus far made an agreement with us for the great 
and philanthropic purpose of opening the ship communication through the 
Isthmus, it will now be most desirable immediately after the ratification 
of the treaty, on both sides, that you should cultivate the most friendly 
relations with the British agents in that country, who will hereafter hare 
to devote their energies and co-operation with ours, to the accomplish- 
ment of the great work designed by the treaty. Kindness and concilia- 
tion are most earnestly recommended by me to you. I trust that means 
will speedily be adopted by Great Britain to extinguish the Indian title, 
with the help of the Nicaraguans, or the Company, within what we con- 
sider to be the limits of Nicaragua. We have never acknowledged, and 
never can acknowledge, the existence of any claim of sovereignty in the 
Mosquito king, or any other Indian in America. To do so, would be to 
deny the title of the United States to our own territories. Having always 
regarded an Indian title as a mere right of occupancy, we can never agree 
that such a title should be treated otherwise than as a thing to be extin- 
guished At the will of the discoverer of the country. Upon the ratifica- 
tion of the treaty. Great Britain will no longer have any interest to deny 
this principle, which she has recognized in every other case in common 
with us. Her protectorate will be reduced to a shadow — " Stat nominis 
urribra ;" for she can neither occupy, fortify, nor colonize, or exercise do- 
minion or control in any part of the Mosquito coast or Central America. 
To attempt to do either of these things, after the exchange of ratifications. 
would inevitably produce a rupture with the United States. By the 
terms neither party can occupy to protect, nor protect to occupy. 

* ******** 

(Signed) John M. Claytoh." 


This constructioii has been as explicitly denied by Mr. 
Bulwer, in his letters to Mr. Webster, in which he affirms 
that the convention was not designed to affect the position of 
Great Britain in respect to the Mosquito shore. He asks, 
substantially, why is there any reference to *' protection" as 
existing, or as hereafter likely to exist, if the fact of the pro- 
tectorate, and the right of a protectorate, were not recognized? 
We liave agreed not to use this protectorate for the specific 
purpose of obstructing the proposed canal — nothing more I 

This is not the place to discuss the correctness or fallacy 
of either construction ; it is enough to know that the Ameri- 
can construction has been practically negatived from the 
ratification of the treaty until this hour; that Great Britain 
has not only occupied San Juan, and exercised dominion over 
it, but still continues to do so, in a maimer equally offensive 
to the United States and to Nicaragua.^ 

' On the 15th of August, 1850, the British Representative in Central 
America wrote to the Grovernraent of Nicaragua as follows : 

" Instead of insisting on its supposed rights to the Mosquito shore, 
Nicaragua woul(f best consult her interests by at once making good terms 
with England ; for resistance in this matter will be of no further avail It 
is impossible that Nicaragua should be ignorant of her Britannic Majesty's 
relation to the Mosquito question, as it has before it the letter of Viscount 
Palmerston, of the date of the 15th of April last, in which he declares, in 
the most dear and direct terms, the utter impossibility of acceding to the 
pretensions of Nicaragxua. On the other hand, the treaty of Messrs. Clay- 
ton and Bulwer, about which you have so much to say, and in which you 
express so much confidence, expressly recognizes the Mosquito Kingdom, 
and sets aside the rights which you pretend Nicaragua has on thai coast. 
The true policy for Nicaragua, is to undeceive herself in this respect, and 
to put no further confidence in the protestations or assurances of pretended 
friends, [viz. Americans.] It will be far better for her to come to an 
understanding without delay with G-reat Britain, on which nation depends 
not only the welfare and commerce of the State, but also the probability 
of accomplishing anything positive concerning interoceanic communication 
through her territories, because it is only in London that the necessary 
capital for such an enterprise can be found." 

Again, on the 6th of December, 1850, the same officer wrote to the 


The provisions of the treaty, in other respects, have been 
of no practical value. No company has presented evidences 
of its capability to carry out the enterprise of the canal ; and 
consequently that styled "the American Atlantic and Pa- 
cific Ship Canal Company," cannot lay claim to the joint 
protection of the two governments, under the terms of the 
treaty ; nor has it the guaranty of the United States, as pro- 
vided for, by the, as yet, unratified treaty of 1849. 

In respect to the practical operations of this Company very 
little is known, beyond the fact that, in July or August, 
1850, a party of engineers, in its employ, sailed for Nicara- 
gua, and has since made a survey of a line fiom Lake 
Nicaragua to the Pacific, not very far from that pursued by 
Galisteo and Baily, — less, probably, with a view to the con- 
struction of a canal, than to the opening of a transit road. 
The results of this survey are not before the public in an au- 
thentic form, nor is it known that any further surveys or 
other practical operations have been made by them, on any 
of the routes for a canal hitherto suggested. In fact, their 
operations seem to have been confined to the opening of a 
new route of transit for passengers to California ; for which, 
as I have elsewhere said, the Isthmus of Nicaragua presents 
many important advantages. To this end they last year 
despatched a small steamer, called the "Director," which 

Nicaragua!! Government, informing it of the boundaries ^^ which Her 
Majesty^s Chvernment proposes to assert for the Mosquito Kingj^' as follows: 
" The undersigned, Her Britannic Majesty's Charge d' Affaires in Cen- 
tral America, with tliis view, has the honor to declare to the Minister of 
Foreign Relations of the Supreme Government of Nicaragua, that the 
general boundary line of the Mosquito territory begins at the northern 
extremity of the boundary line between the district of Tegucigalpa, in 
Honduras, and the jurisdiction of New Segovia; and after following the 
northern frontiers of New Segovia, it nins along the south-eastern limit of 
the district of Matagalpa and Chontales, and thence in an eastern course 
until it reaches the Machuca Rapids, on the river San Juan." 


succeeded in reaching the Lake, where it is now plying. 
Other, and still smaller steamers, designed to run on the 
river, it is said, have also been sent out ; a road has been 
opened from Lake Nicaragua to the Port of San Juan 
del Sur ; and a line of ocean steamers to ply between New 
York and San Juan on the eastern coast of the continent, and 
San Juan del Sur and San Francisco, on the western, have 
commenced making regular voyages. 

It is not certain whether the Government of Nicaragua 
will regard what has been done as a bona fide compliance, 
either with the spirit or the terms of the tenth article of the 
contract, which provides that the surveys for the canal shall 
be commenced within one year after the ratification of the 
contract. Still, looking to the advantages which may accrue 
to the country, from even a transit route through its territo- 
ries, it may not insist upon a strict and technical compliance 
with the terms of the contract ; it may even overlook the 
fatal vitiation of that contract, in consequence of the failure 
of the treaty in connection with which it was negotiated, 
upon which it depends, and without which it is of little or 
no value. That treaty afforded a guaranty of protection, 
and this was the prime condition upon which the concession 
was made. Its failure would afford just ground for a declara- 
tion of forfeiture ; but whether or not that will be made, 
will doubtless depend much upon the future proceedings of 
the Company, now retaining their contract by sufferance 

Since the above was written, the Company here referred 
to despatched one of its own members to Nicaragua, with the 
view of procuring a separation of the privilege of exclusive 
steam-navigation, in the interior waters of the State, from the 
remainder of the canal contract, and to secure other addi- 
tional privileges necessary to establish a monopoly of transit 
across the Nicaraguan Isthmus. This exclusive privilege 


was principally conceded for the purpose of facilitating the 
construction of the canal ; and not to organize a monoj)oly 
in the hands of any set of men. Accordingly, and regarding 
the attempt to procure this separation as covering a design 
to abandon the proposed canal, by securing independenth'- all 
that could, for many years at least, prove of value, the Gov- 
ernment of Nicaragua refused its assent. Political disturb- 
ances subsequently occurring, the constituted authorities of 
the State were overthrown, and two distinct Governments 
installed, one at Leon, another at Grenada. 

It can hardly be sui)posed that any foreigner would be 
competent to decide which of these two Governments had 
the best claim to be regarded as legitimate. Yet the agent 
of the Canal Company, without waiting for the question of 
legitimacy, or the cfe facio predominance of one or the other 
to be determined, seized the moment of revolution to press 
his purposes with the parties claiming to constitute the Gov- 
ernment at Grenada, and by promises of furnishing men and 
arms, by professions of unbounded influence with the British 
and American Governments, and by other representations 
equally fiillacious, succeeded in procuring its consent to his 
purposes. The impropriety of negotiating under such cir- 
cumstances and upon such grounds, is sufficiently obvious. 
No sooner did the Provincial Government at Leon hear of 
these proceedings, than it issued an order denouncing the 
whole proceedings of the Canal agent, and declaring his new 
charter null and void, as follows: 

" The Provisional Supreme Goverament will see with satisfaction the 
interests of the aforesaid company arranged in harmony with those of this 
State when it shall have recovered its internal peace, and when its Gov- 
ernment is qualified to enter upon affairs of this kind ; but any negotia- 
tions concluded m the mean time are not authorized by it, nor will they 
be recognized as legal and subsisting. ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 




It is, of course, impossible to calculate with anything more 
than approximate accnracy the advantages which, upon the 
score of economy alone, would result to the world from the 
construction of the proposed canal. Its general benefits to 
mankind, from the augmentation of commerce, the opening 
(if new markets, the creation of new sources of demand, and 
1 he cheapening of all articles of import, with the consequent 
increase of manufactures and agricultural suppUes, cannot be 
tuilcuiated by the narrow standard of dollars and cents. The 
employment which would, under the new era, be given to 
the overgrown and starving populations of Europe, the new 
fields which it would open to enterprise, and the diffusion of 
light^ knowledge, and civilization which follows always upon 
any great improvement in the physical condition of mankind, 
and which increases with every saving of an hour's time, or 
a mile's distance in the communications between nations — all 
these are considerations which must lead the Statesman, the 
Philosopher, and the Philanthropist, to regard the proposed 
undertaking with deeper interest than any which has claimed 
the attention of mankind. The conjunction of time and cir- 
cumstance is favorable for the work, and it now seems that 
the "star of empire," which, in its westward progress, stood 
still for awhile upon the crown of the Cordilleras, is destined 
to pass onward to its culmination, while the giant arm of 

VOL. n. 36 


conjoined capital and labor smites through the barriers 
which nature has set up between two hemispheres. 

These general considerations, however, are not those which 
are most likely to lead to the realization of the enterprise. 
Practical results follow only upon real wants ; and even the 
mightiest schemes of ambition are seldom perfected, except 
when they harmonize with the tangible interests of the 
nations which cherish them. The requirements of Trade 
first directed the attention of men to the project of an inter- 
oceanic canal, and to these all political considerations and ideas 
of national aggrandisement are but secondary. Agriculture, 
manufactures, and commerce have come to be regarded as 
the standards of national greatness ; ^tliey are the essential 
sources of wealth and power. These, in conjunction with 
her illimitable natural resources, and the activity, intelli- 
gence, and enterprise of her people, have made the United 
States what she now is, the most prosperous and the most 
powerful nation on the globe. Powerful, not in her army 
nor her war marine, but in the obility to organize both, when 
occasion shall require, on a grander and more eflScient scale 
than the world has ever seen. 

The proposed canal, therefore, first claims our attention 
under its commercial aspect. That its construction would 
prove generally advantageous to commerce is undoubted, but 
in what manner, and to what extent, is not well understood, 
I have alluded to the Eastern or Oriental Trade, as a great, 
if not the principal source of the wealth and power of the 
maritime nations of Europe. It was early supposed, and is 
still believed, that the opening of a ship canal across the 
American Isthmus, would prove highly beneficial to that 
trade, and to the nations enjoying it, both by shortening the 
distance and the time, between the Oriental and the European 
ports. Such, however, is not the fact ; at any rate, not to 
the extent which has almost universally been supposed. 
Considered in reference to that trade, the United States will 



derive the principal, if not sole advantages from the opening 
of the proposed canal ; advantages solid and permanent, and 
which must materially affect her greatness and future destiny. 
Leaving entirely out of view the superiority, in every respect, 
of American ships and steamers over those of all other 
nations, and which, under equal conditions, would place the 
United States at the head of the commercial world, the 
advantages which would accrue from the canal, to the United 
States and England relatively, in respect of distance, in com- 
municating with the centres of Oriental trade, are compen- 
diously shown in the following table. The distances around 
Cape Horn are not included, because the route by the Cape 
of Good Hope is both shortest and quickest. 

Via Cape of 
Good Hope. 

Via Proposed 

Net Low. 

Net Gain. 

From England 

To Canton 

" Calcutta .... 
" Singapore .... 
From New York 

To Canton 

" Calcutta .... 
" Singapore . . . 









Relatively, therefore, and by the best of existing routes, 
England is now 1,700 miles nearer the centres of Asiatic 
trade than the Atlantic ports of the United States. Should 
the proposed canal be built, not only will this physical 
advantage be reversed, but those ports will be placed 3,000 
miles nearer the Oriental markets than England. That is to 
say, the net gain to the United States would be not less than 
4r,500 miles; or calculating time, which is a better standard 
than distance, a gain of from twenty -five to thirty days.* 

' " The Eugb'shman meets tlie American, in all the markets of the world, 
except those of the Gulf and the Caribbean Sea, with the advantage of ten 
days and upwards. 

"Notwithstanding this disadvantage, in their commercial race with 



Again ; in respect to the trade of the western coast of 
South America, and the Sandwich Islands, which is daily 
growing in importance, the advantages accruing to the 
United States would be, relatively, still greater. 

From England 

To Valparaiso 

" Callao . 

" Sandwich Islands 
From New York 
To Valparaiso . 

" Callao 

" Sandwich Islands 

Via Cap« 

Via PropoMd 












In communicating with the Sandwich Islands, for instance, 
England has now an advantage, over the Atlantic States, of 
1,500 miles in distance ; build the canal, and these States 
have an advantage over England of 3,000 miles. It the 
comparison is made in respect to Callao and Valparaiso, the 
result is not less striking.' 

Leaving out of view the circumstance, that our territories 
are no longer confined to the eastern coast of the Continent, 

England, the United States have, for the last fifly years, been gradoAUj 
gaining, until, at last, the contest has become so close tliat Great Britain 
is hardly a throat-latch ahead. Cut through the Isthmus, and tlie triumph 
will be complete. Instead, tlicn, of meeting us in India, China, and eveo 
on our own Pacific coast, with the advantage of some ten day's sail or 
more, the scales will be turned, and we shall have the advantage of some 
twenty or thirty day**, thus making a difference, under canvass, of thirtj 
or forty days in our favor. Do you doubt, can any one doubt^ the change 
which such a communication would produce in the commercial position of 
the two countries ?" — LieuL Maury ^ Rep. Doc, ZOih Cong. Ist Sem., No, 
145, p, 669. 

' " There are eight milllions of people inhabiting the Pacific Coast ; all 
of tliem want things which we have to sell. They are four or five months 
removed from us : open a communication across the Continent^ and it will 
bring them within an average distance of less than thirty days." — Lieyi, 
Maury, Tb. p. 667. 


and looking to the results simply as affecting the Eastern 
States of the Confederacy, still, under this limited aspect, the 
opening of the proposed canal must give the United States 
the control of the trade of South America and Asia, and 
make her the first commercial nation of the globe. But 
there are other circumstances which powerfully favor this 
grand result. There are but few persons, even here, in the 
midst of the activity which it has created, who comprehend 
the fact, that the second commercial city of this country, with 
its fleets of ships and steamers, laden with a wealth com- 
pared with which that of the old galleons of Spain was 
trifling, exists at this hour upon the Pacific coast, in the 
State of California. Fewer still comprehend the results 
which are to follow from this great fact. It points surely 
and irrevocably to American predominance in the Pacific. 
We no longer look eastward, across two continents, to the 
great markets of Asia; our ships need no longer stretch 
their long and dreary way around the Cape of Good Hope, 
but may spread their exultant wings across an ocean, hence- 
forth tributary to us alone, direct to the land of silks, and 
teas, and spices. Already Britain has obtained the odium, 
and the United States the benefit, of the opening of the 
markets of China. The carrying trade from that empire to 
every part of the world, even under present circumstances, 
from the greater economy and speed of American ships, 
must fall into American hands. And before Europe shall 
dream of the possibility of the enterprise, American steamers 
will be found plying between Canton, and San Francisco, and 
Panama. The opening of the markets of Japan, and a 
triumphant competition with the world, in the islands of the 
Indies, will be a speedy and natural consequence. The 
future is big with results like these — results more than proba- 
ble, irrespective of the projected ship canal, and inevitable if 
it should ever be constructed. 

For, communication direct and rapid, between the Atlantic 


and Pacific States of the Confederacy, is a political as well 
as a commercial necessity, and must be effected, at whatever 
cost or hazard. That a communication of this kind will be 
opened within our own territories, wholly within our control, 
and free from the possibility of foreign interruption, may be 
regarded as certain, even though it shall require the annex- 
ation of the entire continent, as far south as the Isthmus of 
Panama. But it is not supposed that this alternative will be 
forced upon the country; for within its present limits it 
seems probable that the facilities for such a communication 
do now exist. From the head of Matagorda bay on the Gulf 
of Mexico, and from the head of the navigable waters of the 
Arkansas River, to the Port of San Diego, in California, is a 
distance of but little more than a thousand miles. The inter- 
vening country, whatever may be its deficiencies in other 
respects, is, topographically, highly favorable for the con- 
struction of a railroad. Politically, so far as the transmission 
of intelligence, and, in case of war, of military forces and 
supplies, is concerned, such a work would, probably, be ade- 
quate to the requirements of the nation. And hence, while 
our commerce is gathering strength, and the means for 
opening a passage by water, from one sea to the other, are 
accumulating, the people of the United States will exercise 
only the simplest prevision, and most ordinary caution, in 
speedily constructing a work so essential, not less to their 
future safety, than their present wants.' 

' In 1830, the tonnage of Great Britain ammounted to 2,500,000 tons ; the 
tonnage of the United States to 1,200,000 tons. In 1850, the tonnage of 
Great Britain was, in round numbers, 4,000,000 tons; that of the United 
States 3,500,000 tons. This is exclusive of the internal commercial marine 
of tlie United States, which is eight or ten times as great as that of Great 
Britain, and wliich, if included, as it probably should be, in estimating the 
relative commercial importance of the two countries, already entitles the 
United States to the first place amongst nations. The increase of British 
tonnage, during the past twenty years, ha^, therefore, been but little more 


As compared with the maritime nations of Europe, there- 
fore, and in respect to what may be called the Asiatic trade, 
I repeat, the United States would be the principal, if not the 
sole gainer, by the construction of a ship canal across the 
Isthmus of Nicaragua. So far as that trade is concerned, it 
is clearly not to the interest of those nations, to have this 
work undertaken ; and he who counts upon their cooperation 
in carrying it through, manifests his own ignorance, alike of 
their past and present policy. Individual capital, in this age 
of the world, seeks investment wherever there is a promise 
of profitable returns ; political considerations yield to natural 
laws; and patriotism, with men collectively, weighs little 
against private interest. It is precisely this reason, which 
renders it a matter of indifference whether the maritime 
nations of Europe, influenced by considerations of policy, 
jealous of American prosperity, or fearful of American power, 
regard the proposed work with favor or disfavor ; their con- 
currence is not necessary to its realization. The policy of 
the United States may safely be predicated upon these con- 
siderations ; and the opening of the canal pursued as a simple 
question of individual, national interest. 

than ^y per cent; while the increase of American tonnage has been up- 
wards of one hundred and fifty per cent. The repeal of the Navigation 
Laws of Great Britain, will probably prevent a parallel increase of 
English tonnage during the next ten years ; while it will tend to augment 
the ratio of American increase. In 1860, the United States will be the 
first maritirae nation of the globe — the greatest the world has ever seen. 

The opening of the British carrying trade has already called into exist- 
ence a class of vessels, which must speedily monopolize it for themselves ; 
viz : the American Clipper Ships. In point of capacity and speed, they 
are unapproachable. In the recent trial between the '^ Reindeer," the 
che/d" ceuvre of British skill, and the American clipper "Oriental," from 
London to Hong Kong, the " Oriental," made the passage in 117 days, the 
"Reindeer in 1301 National predilection caimot prevent freights from 
taking the course wliich is speediest and cheapest. The whole of the East 
India carrying trade must, therefore, speedily fall into our hands. 

288 IinXROCEANIC cakal. 

The cheap common-places about millennial fraternization 
amongst nations, from the lips of sleek ambassadors, may 
tickle the ears of credulous and maudlin " philanthropists," 
and be suited to the large liberality of after-dinner com- 
panies; but it can never delude the sound, practical sense 
of the nation.* The arts of Delilah were not called into requi- 
sition to deprive Samson of his strength, until the power of 
the Philistines was found unavailable against him ; and the 
gilded links of triple treaties and "joint protectorates, for 
the general welfare of mankind," will not be bound upon the 
massive limbs of the Great Eepublic of the West, the ultimate 
Regenerator of the Worid, until its rulers become corrupted, 
and the eyes of its people blinded to their tangible interests. 
We require no exterior aid in the construction of the pro- 
posed work, except such as we shall receive in spite of the 
policy of foreign governments, and through the operations 
of those laws which now direct the movements of capital — 
the laws of dividends. 

In unequivocal English, we are most deeply interested in 
this work ; we can ourselves construct it ; we need no con- 
currence except that of the people through whose territories 

^ Sir Groorge Seymour, a veteran diplomatist of thirty years' standizig, 
in his recent examination before the Salaries Committee of the Britiah 
Parliament, testified : " I consider that giving dinners is an essential part 
of diplomarii ; I have no hesitation in saying so. I have no idea of a man 
being a good diplomatist who does not give good dinners I" (JiGnuks, 
2261). And Sir Richard Packenham testified, before the same committee, 
that while he was in the United States, his dinners were better than the 
President's ! Complacent Sir Richard I The " essential part" of the ex- 
penses of some recent British Legations would form a curious commentary 
upon Sir George's candid admission, — not better, perhaps, than the 
item which is denominated " Secret or Contingent Service I** There are 
other veteran diplomatists besides Sir Greorge Seymour, and there are 
very great men among us, whose conduct, *' on golden hinges tamiDg," 
would greatly confirm Sir George's estimate of the diplomatic value of 
" good dinners !" 


it must pass, and this we have in the fullest acceptation of 
the term. We wish its construction upon no narrow basis ; 
we need no exclusive control over it, in order to secure its 
benefits, even though it were our desire to monopolize them, 
for they must accrue, if not to us alone, yet so largely in our 
favor, that no competition can either deprive us of them, or 
materially diminish their value. We have therefore nothing 
to fear from exterior opposition, nor to gain from foreign 
partnerships. The interest manifested by European govern- 
ments in the international affairs of this continent, is wholly 
impertinent ; it has its origin in fear and jealousy, and is 
directed to the sole object of crippling our strength, — not by 
force, for that would but knit the limbs and develop the 
muscles of the young giant, but by the specious and danger- 
ous arts of diplomacy. It is easy for one nation to stipulate 
to refrain from doing what she could not do if she would, if 
thereby she binds her neighbor to abstain from doing what 
is not only feasible for her, but important to her prosperity 
and greatness. The skill of the ambassador who succeeds in 
seducing a great nation into the commission of such folly, is 
poorly recompensed by the paltry honor of knighthood.* 

' An instance of this species of tactics, in which the old dodge of mak- 
ing a virtue of necessity is resorted to, with an exceedingly bad grace, 
but a prodigious, and almost ludicrous affectation of liberality and good 
faith, is afforded in the Clayton and Bulwer treaty, in which Great 
Britain magnanimously binds herself to abstain from doing what is both 
physically and financially impossible, namely, to "colonize" Central 
America, " control" and " exercise dominion over it," provided the United 
States will assent to the same conditions, — that is to say, refrain from 
annexing that country or any portion of it, even though it should be 
desired by each, and be essential to the welfare of both I The clause in 
the treaty of peace with Mexico, providing that none of the Mexican 
States shall be admitted into the American Union, except with the con- 
sent of the Mexican Central Oovemment, was a suggestion jointly made 
to the Mexican Commissioners by the British and French Legations, with 
what disinterested object the reader can easily divine, although he may 

VOL. n. 87 


But it is not by a comparative view of the value of the 
proposed work to the various maritime nations of the world, 
that its importance to the United States is to be estimated. 
It is not the ambition of this country to prosper at the 
expense of others ; but to open by its own energy and enter- 
prise new sources of wealth, and gather new elements of 
greatness. We would not that England or France were less, 
but that we may be superior to both. 

The Pacific Ocean, as its name implies, is a placid sea, and 
upon its quiet waters, as I have already said, that powerful 
element of modern civilization, which received its first and 
most important, practical application on the waters of our own 
Hudson, seems destined to achieve its greatest triumphs. 
This result is indicated by a variety of circumstances. The 
islands of that ocean have been scattered with a wise refer- 
ence to the wants of trade, under the new era which steam 
navigation has wrought in the intercourse between nations; 
and, by a series of events, the ultimate tendencies of which 
could not have been anticipated by those who participated in 
them most actively, those islands have been placed under 
influences, and in relations, which favor most strongly the 
interests, and meet most fully the requirements of the United 
States. The peaceable absorption of the Sandwich Islands 

not comprehend the folly of a Senate which ratified the clause. As an 
appropriate pendant to the Clayton and Bulwer Treaty, the United States 
should propose one pai-allel in terms, substituting " India" instead of " the 
States of Central America," and observe the results It might prove ag- 
nificant of the nature of British magnanimity, and would certainly illus- 
trate the sincerity of British devotion to the principles so grandly put 
forward in the treaty above referred to. " You may have the crow, and 
I will take the turkey ; or I will take the turkey, and you may have the 
crow," was the liberal alternative presented by the white hunter to his 
Indian companion, in dividing the spoils of the chase. The Indian reflected 
a moment, and then inquired, " Why you no talk turkey to me ?" Equal 
reflection, it is timidly suggested, might be judiciously exercised in signiDg 
treaties, or at least in ratifying them. 


within our confederacy, is an event near at hand, and as 
inevitable as the decrees of Heaven. The elastic power of 
our system has been fully tested, its vitality proved ; and 
its ability to mould and harmonize vast masses of men into 
one consistent, vigorous whole, is no longer a question open 
to doubt, or admitting of discussion. The annexation of the 
Sandwich Islands, however pregnant with future results, 
may therefore be eflfected without any shock to our political 
constitution or civil organization; like the purchase of 
Florida and Louisiana, the annexation of Texas, and the 
purchase of California, it is an event reserved for the fulness 
of time, and will occur in the order which has been assigned 
to it by that Almighty Power whose controlling hand is 
indelibly stamped upon every page of our history.* 

' The policy both of the Sandwich Islands and the United States has 
hitherto been, that the former should remain neutral and independent 
Having far greater interests in those Islands than all other nations of the 
world combined, the United States has nevertheless been content that 
they should be common ground for all nations, at the same time she 
has declared that she could not permit them to be occupied by any Euro- 
pean power. But recent events, and particularly the conduct of France, 
have shown, that while in their present condition, these islands are subject 
to constant and most unjustifiable insult and disturbance from European 
powers, to the injury of American, not less than native rights and interests. 

" In 1849, on the flimsiest of pretexts, the French dismantled the forts of 
the island, and destroyed much public and private property. The grounds 
of these piratical attacks were simply contemptible. The duty on French 
brandies, it was said, was too high; some mischievous boys had mimicked 
a French priest, and had not been punished ; a French whaler had been 
fined sixty-five dollars for violating port regulations; Catholic priests 
were not so much favored as Protestant; and the Government had the 
audacity to use the English language in its official communications I 

" In December last, (1850,) a French commissioner, M. Perrin, arrived 
at Honolulu, in the frigate Serieuse, and once more insisted on the above 
demands, with the addition of some others still more absurd. Perceiving 
the inutility of concessions, and that the French would be satisfied with 
nothing short of the virtual sovereignty of the group, the king and chiefii 
decided upon non-compliance, and to await the action of the French forceSL 


Facilities of intercourse and communication amongst men 
are the ligatures which bind them together ; and with a 
corresponding improvement in these, no expansion of tenri- 

That American readers may fully understand the importance of Frendi 
interests in the Hawaiian king^om^ it is only necessary to say that at thb 
time, with the exception of the Catholic Missionaries, forced upon the 
islanders at the point of the bayonet, there are not a dozen Frenchmen in 
the group, and of them not an individual of any position. The only French 
commerce is an indirect one of a trifling amount, from Valparaiso, and the 
visits of a dozen whale-ships annually. 

*• The French authorities on this visit were disappointed in the resultSL 
The native population, independent of their chiefs, exasperated by a series 
of injuries, pertinaciously persisted in, had determined to r«sist the landing 
of the French forces. The numerous American and English residents, to 
a man, sympathized fully with them ; and without their assistance the 
Hawaiians would have found no difficulty in driving the French back to 
their boats. But this would have subjected the town of Honolulu to a 
bombardment, and entailed, upon Americans in particular, a heavy loss in 
property. Fortunately, the United States ship Vandalia was in port, and 
was prepared to resist any act involving injury to American citizens. 
The French authorities, desirous of avoiding a collision with the American 
naval force, at last consented to patch up a provisional treaty, referring to 
the home government for further instructions. The upshot of this is, 
however, merely to give them time to mature their plans, and prepare a 
force which shall, without fail, secure the submission of the king. Know- 
ing this, he, his chiefs, and people, have intimated to the Ajnerican Gov- 
ernment, it is said, their desire to be admitted into the Federal Union, 
reserving for themselves nothing further than security in their civil rights. 

" If this be correct — and there seems to be no reason to doubt it — ^the 
offer is now made to the citizens of this Republic, as a free gifl^ of the 
entire Sandwich group, on such terms as Congress may impose. The 
islanders ask, in return, simply to receive the rights and protection 
accorded to American citizens. If this government does not avail itself 
of the opportunity thus presented, they may never again have a similar 
offer. The group, in territorial extent, is unimportant, its area being but 
6,500 square miles, but it is capable of supporting tenfold its present popu- 
lation (80,000). It is the commercial and military key to the North 
Pacific, the central point from which radiate all the channels of commerce 
of that vast sea; posaeasing fine harbors, a fertile soil, and salubrious di- 


tory is to be dreaded. What men have hitherto been accus- 
tomed to call " opposition," or " conflict of interests," has 
no real existence ; on the contrary, the best interests of all 

mate, nothing is required but a stable government to make it the Cuba of 
the Pacific. It already consumes annually nearly $1,000,000 of American 
merchandize. Its American permanent population is not far from 1,000, 
possessing valuable sugar and coSee plantations, in which, and in other 
permanent improvements, large sums have been expended. A merchant 
of Boston is the proprietor of a sugar plantation on the island of E^uai, 
the cost of which was nearly $90,000. 

"The American Board of Missions have expended somewhere near 
$1,500,000 in their operations, and have settled on the group fifty or more 
&milie3, possessing valuable homesteads. The floating American popula- 
tion touching at these islands annually, is not far from 15,000, seamen and 
voyagers, from some 400 vessels. In short, American enterprise, both 
commercial and philanthropic, have invested the group with its present 
political importance — bestowed upon the inhabitants laws, religion, 
civilization, and will soon add to those gifts language — for the English 
tongue is rapidly superseding the Hawaiian. The islanders have thus a 
moral claim upon the American nation for protection. In no way can 
this be more efficiently bestowed, than by receiving them into the family 
of this great Republic. It is true the native population is melting away 
by the same untoward causes which have wasted away our Indians, but 
in a slower degree. Those that remain are as well prepared to be Ameri- 
can citizens as the multitude of European emigrants. Unlike the gene- 
raUty of them, they can read and write, and have already acquired demo- 
cratic ideas, under the operation of their own liberal constitution of gov- 
ernment, which will readily enable them to incorporate themselves under 
our institutions. One fact is certain — the native population is destined to 
be supplanted in numbers and power by a foreign race. They desire us 
to be their successors and protectors. Shall we, or shall we not be ? It 
can now be done, with the consent and urgent desire of all interested. It 
requires no outlay of money — the present revenues of the islands are more 
than adequate to the expenses of its government ; time, opportunity, the 
interests alike of the inhabitants and ourselves point to this result If all 
the facts bearing upon this question be presented to the people of the 
United States, a favorable response to the desire of the Hawaiians must be 
the result" 


men, wherever and however situated, are in strict and entire 

The Sandwich Islands are now but little further removed 
from the centre of the United States, than was New Orleans 
but twenty years ago ; it is both easier and speedier to com- 
municate, at this hour, with the capital of Nicaragua, than it 
was at that period with the capital of Ohio! Steamers, with 
the speed of twelve miles the hour, would go from New 
York, via the proposed canal : 

To the Sandwich Islands in .... 20 days. 

" CaUao 18 " 

" Valparaiso 20 « 

" Canton 40 " 

" Calcutta 46 " 

But New York is not the United States. San Francisco 
is equally entitled to have this calculation made with refer- 
ence to the distances from her magnificent bay to the points 
here named. Upon the same basis, the actual time requisite 
to go from San Francisco 

To the Sandwich Islands would be . . . 9 days. 

" Canton 30 " 

" Calcutta 36 « 

But the Sandwich Islands would probably be brought 
within a week's steaming of San Francisco; practically 
nearer than were the extremities of the State of New York, 
at the period of the Confederation!* 

It is known that coal, the grand essential to steam naviga- 
tion, is found at various points upon both continents, and in 

* The Steamer " Commodore Stockton," was to have sailed from San 
Francisco for Honolulu, on the 20th of June last, — ^the pioneer in the 
enterprise of opening steam communication across the Pacific, between 
the United States, and the nations of Asia. 


the islands of the Pacific ; but until these deposits are devel- 
oped, our whaling fleets, passing from Atlantic ports, to the 
north-western seas, in the form of ballast alone, at rates 
merely nominal, are able to furnish a supply adequate to the 
wants of any line of steamers which may be established, to 
ply between San Francisco and the ports of China. 

In treating of the proposed communication between the 
ocean, I have abstained from making any calculations 
respecting the augmentation of trade, which it is deemed 
would follow from it, for the simple reason that the past 
furnishes no standard whereon it can be estimated. The 
new elements which five years have introduced into our 
commercial relations, put all experience at feult ; the dream 
of the speculator is found to be nearer the truth than the 
labored calculations of the man of statistics. In 1832, the 
exports of domestic cotton goods from the United States to 
the western coast of the continent, were less than six hun- 
dred bales ; in 1847, they amounted to over twenty thousand 
bales ; in 1848, to more than thirty thousand ; and in 1850, 
to upwards of one hundred thousand ! In 1832, we received 
from the same coast products, collectively, not exceeding 
$3,000,000 in value ; in 1850, in gold alone, not less than 
$50,000,000! And this enormous sum, there is reason to 
believe, will this year be more than doubled. 

There is, nevertheless, one branch of industry or trade, 
and that neither the most important nor the most profitable 
of those which engage the attention of our people, in respect 
to which we may make some approximate calculations, illus- 
trating, from one point of view, alike the importance of our 
interests in the Pacific, and the advantage of a ship canal 
between the oceans. 

The capital annually employed in the wfiale fishery of the 
United States, is upwards of $15,000,000 ; and in 1849, the 
number of vessels engaged in its prosecution was 613, carry- 
ing, in round numbers, 200,000 tons. For nine years the 


average annual product of this fishery has been, 141,242 bar- 
rels of sperm ; 235,456 barrels of whale oil ; and 2,324,578 
pounds of bone ; in aggregate value amounting annually to 
$7,356,142. It is estimated that fully two thirds of the ves- 
sels, and three fourths of the tonnage of the whaling fleet, are 
engaged in the Pacific, and that three fourths of the product 
of the fishery comes from thence ; that is to say, 400 vessels, 
carrying 150,000 tons, and producing $5,520,000. It has 
been calculated, by competent hands, that, allowing for wear 
and tear of ships, expenses of manning, victualling, and 
sailing, interest on capital invested, insurance, loss on pro- 
ducts detained by length of voyage, leakage, etc. etc., that 
the gross profits do not more than equal one-fifth of the gross 
returns, i. e., $1,150,000. One third of the time occupied in 
each whaling voyage, it is calculated, is lost in going to and 
from the whaling seas, via Cape Horn. By the construction 
of the proposed canal, in the saving of time, wages, and other 
expenses, saving of insurance and interest, quicker returns, 
increased amount of actual fishing, it is estimated, by the 
same competent hands, that the gross returns would be quite 
$7,000,000, of which amount, not less than $3,300,000 would 
be gross profits ! Assuming these calculations to be true, 
the actual augmentation of the wealth of the country, from 
this source alone, would equal two millions of dollars per 

The value of the proposed work, therefore, is not so much 
in the saving of time and money in the departments of trade 
already established, but in the new sources of wealth which 
it shall develop. Hitherto the tide of emigration has flowed 
into our country from the east ; still Europe pours her thou- 
sand stalwart men per day into the single port of New York ; 
the forests bow before the advancing column of labor ; roads, 
canals, and railways mark its steps ; wealth and strength are 
developed in its path. But the New World is no longer the 
land of hope and promise to the Celt and Teuton alone; irom. 



the far off empires of the Orient, the once enigmatical Cathay, 
come the men of other races, to aid in the solution of the 
grand problem which Time and Heaven are working out 
within our borders.* Amongst the most industrious, inoffen- 
sive, and valuable of our citizens in California, is the China- 
man.' Inured to industry, educated in the strictest subordi- 

^ The following table shows the number of foreign emigrants who 
arrived at the port of New York for the week ending July 14tL 

From Ireland 



From Sweden 






. 6 

England and Wales 






West Indies 


France . 


Nova Scotia 




South America 


Switzerland . 








Total for one 

' week 



This, it should be understood, is not an exceptional week, but one taken 
at random, and not above the average. On the 29th of July, (a single 
day,) 5,811 emigrants arrived ; and during the entire month, 33,854. It 
is probable that the emigration to this single port, for 1851, will reach 
nearly or quite four hundred thousand. 

For the two weeks ending August 14, the arrivals amounted to 28,000 ; 
on the 15th alone, they were 2,338; and for the month of September, 

' " Within a week past, nearly five hundred Chinese emigrants have 
arrived upon our shores, all in two ships, hale and hearty. They remain 
but a day or two in our city, and are then off to the mines — first buying 
a pickaxe, shovel, and a few necessary mining tools, and not a few of them 
drop their own native * rig,' and equip themselves in a pair of thick heavy 
cowhide boots, in lieu of their wooden shoes. Besides, many of them 
dress up in the real Yankee style — all of which is good for trade I One 
feature in regard to tliis class of foreigners is, that even the ceUsiidls are 
rapidly acquiring our own language. This was convincing evidence to 
my mind that they had been sent here for good." — LeUtr to the Journal of 
Commerce, dated San Francisco, May 15. 
VOL. II. 38 


nation to the laws, thrifty in his habits, he is well adapted 
to the peculiar condition of that Avide region, where labor is 
now the grand, I had almost said, the sole requisite to wealth 
and greatness. What the German and the Irishman have 
accomplished for the eastern slope of our mighty country, 
the Chinaman seems destined -to achieve for its western. He 
is more patient and persevering than either, and is perhaps 
best adapted to occupy that position which in Europe is 
assigned to what is called " the laboring population," but 
which here carries with it nothing of odium, but, on the con- 
trary, is a claim to respect. China is over-crowded ; her land 
is stocked to its utmost capacity ; and millions of her people 
pass their entire lives on floats built on the waters; she 
numbers 400,000,000 of people — a population greater than 
that of Europe. The system under which this vast number 
of men have lived and flourished for thousands of years must 
necessarily have many sound and stable elements, which, 
engrafted upon those recognized under our own system, or 
developed by the circumstances of our past condition, can 
only result in good. The great necessity of popular educa- 
tion is nowhere in the world so completely recognized as in 
China. Common schools existed there, while all that Europe 
had of learning was confined to the pedants of the monas- 
teries. Education was there made the standard of civil pre- 
ferment, of dignity, and power, before the Goth and the 
Vandal swept down from the forests of the north upon the 
plains of Italy, — before European civilization had its birtL 
Religious intolerance has no place in the Chinese character; 
obedience, strict obedience to the laws, is the first lesson in 
his education, and the principal article in his political creed. 
Industry is inculcated as a duty ; to be idle is alone discred- 
itable. From such a source as this, the Pacific United States 
seem destined to draw a large part of their future population ; 
with what precise result no man can tell, but undoubtedly 
one favorable, as I have before said, to the solution of the 


great civil, social, and moral problems involved in the future 
history of this continent.* 

It may not, at first glance appear, even admitting the like- 
lihood of large emigration from Asia, how that circumstance 
is likely to affect the proposed canal. But whatever shall 
tend to develop the resources of the Pacific States, or bring 
us in more intimate relations with China, must necessarily 
augment the use, and consequently the prospective value of 
this work ; which, in its turn, must contribute towards encour- 
aging that very emigration from which it is to derive a means 
of support and profit. Our own country is full of examples, 
where works of public utility, projected and built in regions 
almost uninhabited, have, within a few years, derived a profit- 
able support from the farms, the manufactories, the towns, 
and the cities which they themselves called into existence. 
By this species of reciprocal action is wealth created ; not in 
an arithmetical but a geometrical ratio ; and thus will the 
construction of this great work operate upon the interests of 
the United States. 

1 Humboldt, after considering the proposed canal under its commercial 
aspect^ hints at its probable political consequences. He observes, that the 
state of modern civilization is such " that the trade of the world can under- 
go no great changes that are not felt in the organization of society ;" and 
inclines to the belief that as soon as this canal is built, '' Eastern Asia, at 
present insulated and secure from attack, will inevitably enter into more 
intimate connection with the nations of the European race. It may be 
said," he adds, " that the neck of land against which the equinoctial cur- 
rent breaks, has been the bulwark of the independence of China and 
Japan. In penetrating further into futurity, imagination dwells upon the 
conflict between powerful nations, eager to obtain exclusive advantages 
from the way opened to the commerce of the two worlds." — (Peraonal 
Narrative J vol. vi., p. 297.) The acquisition and settlement of California, 
however, have entirely changed the political aspect of the question of the 
canal. California has made the United States principal to that work ; 
and there is no extremity to which she will not go, in preserving the 
transit /ree to her commerce and her citizens. 


There is one other consideration which should not be over- 
looked in this connection. It is the possibility of the open- 
ing of a ship canal, or other* effective means of communi- 
cation, between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, whereby 
the benefits resulting from a canal across our own Continent 
would be anticipated, and in great part, monopolized by 
other and rival nations. That such an undertaking is not 
impossible, is sufficiently well established by the fact that, a 
canal was actually built by the Ptolemies and the Arabian 
Caliphs. The remains of that stupendous work were dis- 
covered, and its course distinctly traced by the French 
Engineers who accompanied the Egyptian Expedition. It 
may be conceded that the savage violence of Eastern nations, 
and the deadly jealousies of European powers, will effectually 
prevent the reopening of this line of cxjmmunication between 
Europe and Eastern and Southern Asia.' We may safely, for 
the present, rely upon the retarding operations of European 
systems, to prevent the undertaking of a work, by which so 

' " The principal obstacles to the realization of this project^" said the late 
distinguished Henry Wheaton, in a despatch to the Department of State, 
" are not natural but political obstacles. France and Great Britain have 
been constant rivals for influence and power in Egypt, ever since the 
invasion of that country by Bonaparte ; and especially since the rupture 
of the Treaty of Amiens, in 1803, which turned upon the tiltimaium of the 
British Cabinet demanding the possession of Malta, as a bulwark against 
the renewal of that attempt by the French, and as a consequent security 
to the British dominions in the East Indias. We have seen this rivalship 
threatening to disturb the harmony of the two powers, during the nego- 
tiations relating to the affairs of the East, in 1840. In the meantime the 
British had silently taken possession of Aden, at the mouth of the Red 
Sea. And the occupation of Algiers by France was, and still is contested, 
silently, if not openly, by Great Britain, upon the ground that, if the 
French gain permanent footing in North Africa, it may ultimately lead 
the way to the reconquest of Egypt, These mutual jealousies have been 
manifested in the divergent lines pursued by tlie French and English 
diplomatic agents, respecting the passage to the Indies, by way of the Red 


mncli might be gained ; yet we should not lose sight of the 
fisict that, the French Engineers who planned the proposed 
canal across the Isthmus of Suez, have satisfactorily shown 
that it would save one third in distance, and nearly as much 
in time, in navigating from her ports to the Coromandel coast 
of India — thus increasing still more, as compared with 
Europe, the physical disadvantage under which the United 
States labors, in respect to the Oriental trade. Nor should 
the significant feet that, Gibraltar, the key to the Mediter- 
ranean, and Aden, commanding the Red Sea, are both in the 
hands of our greatest and most imscrupulous rival. The 
manner in which Great Britain seized upon Aden, has its 
almost exact parallel in the seizure of San Juan. Situated at 
the mouth of the Red Sea, it controls the entrance, and, as a 
consequence, the commerce which may pass through it, as 
eflFectually as San Juan, situated at the mouth of the river of 
the same name, controls that stream, and the passage through 
the lakes and the grand basin of Nicaragua. It is one of the 
three important points indicated by the great Portuguese 
Conquerer Albuquerque, as essential to command and mo- 
nopolize the commerce of the East.* The object of the seizure 

' These three points, as designated by Albuquerque's son, in his 
account of his father's life, were, Malacca, the centre of Asiatic commerce 
at that period ; Ormus, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and Aden, in 
the straits of BabehnandeL "Had the King of Portugal secured a 
strong position, by taking possession of Aden, as he had done of Ormus 
and Malacca, he might, by means of this dominion over the three seas, 
consider himself lord of the world, as did Alexander when he reached the 
Ghinges; since, with these three Ceys, the passages are shut to all other 
nations." — C<mmeniarie8 of the Great Alfonso d Alhuqwrque^ voL iv., p. 


This great conquerer would have turned the course of the Nile into the 
Red Sea, and made the fertile delta of Egypt a desert, in order to realize 
this gigantic project of commercial monopoly, and prevent the Venetians 
from trading with the East Indies, through Egypt See his remarkable 
address to his troops, at the attack on Malacca, Commeniariea, vol ill, p, 


of Aden, Vas also identical witli that which led to the seizure 
of San Juan — the two atrocities reflect light, one upon the 
other, and should caution us against permitting any inter- 
ference, on the part of Great Britain, or any other power, 
upon any pretext, however plausible, in the project of the 
Nicaraguan canal.* That interference will not be directed to 
the construction of the work, but to its obstruction ; not to 
the promotion of general commercial interests, but to the 
prevention of American supremacy in the Pacific 

' " But whatever doubts," observes Mr. Wheaton, in a despatch to the 
Department of State, distinguished for its research and comprehension of 
American interests, in connection with this subject, " But whatever doubts 
may exist as to the relative advantages of shortening the passage to the 
East Indies from west to east, to the different nations interested in the 
commerce of Asia, there can be none as to the advantages which would 
be derived to the United States from shortening the passage (rem east to 
wesL In this question is involved, not only the direct, but the indirect 
intercourse with the East Indies. ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

♦ * * ♦ The opening a water communication from 

one sea to the other, thus becomes a matter of vital importance to ui 
Our national interests, commercial, political, and social, are all involved in 
the question. The necessity of competing with other rival nations, for the 
new trade now opened with the 'Celestial Empire,' from which the veil 
of mystery has been rudely withdrawn, and which has been compelled to 
abandon its anti-social principles of non-intercourse with foreigners; of 
extending our established commerce with the western coasts of the two 
American continents, and the Polynesian archipelago ; of giving increased 
fiwilities to the whale fishery, and of establishing a more convenient com- 
munication, by sea, with our territories beyond the rocky mountains, and 
our naval stations in the Pacific ocean-^all these circumstances combine 
to augment the importance and urgency of this great question. A new 
and vastly increased interest has been given to the subject, by the mea- 
sures adopted by our government, for establishing diplomatic intercourse 
with China, and the independent isles of the Pacific, and by the extended 
schemes of colonization recently developed by Great Britain and France 
in Australasia, New Zeahind, the Marquesas, and Tahiti." 






The present condition of the Indians of Nicaragua may 
be very easily inferred from what I have had occasion to 
say of them in the preceding pages. They have now veiy 
completely assimilated with their conquerers, to a great 
extent intermarried with them, adopted their religion and 
language, and have taken an entirely new position, both in 
respect to themselves and the world at large, from that 
which they occupied at the time of the discovery of America, 
in the fifteenth century. But it cannot prove uninteresting 
to the general reader to know something of their former 
condition, before the infusion of European elements amongst 
them, when they were governed by laws and institutions 
originating with themselves, and by religious systems of 
indigenous growth. And here we are compelled to rely 
upon the accounts of the early Spanish adventurers, often 
vague, and sometimes contradictory ; upon the few monu- 
mental records which time and religious zeal have spared, 
and upon the fragmentary traditions, and imperfect vocabu- 
laries, which are still preserved amongst them. The fullest 
and most reliable chronicle is that of Gonzalez Fernandez de 
Oviedo y Valdez, historiographer of the Indies to the King 


of Spain, who visited Nicaragua in 1526, within four jeara 
after its discovery by Gil Gonzalez de Avila. Some portions 
of his account were used by Herrara, in the compilation of 
his History of Spanish America, who seems also to have had 
access to some other sources of information, with which we 
are imacquainted. Oviedo's chronicle was, nevertheless, 
never published in the original; nor does its existence 
appear to have been known until 1839, when it was discov- 
ered by that indefatigable scholar, Terneau Compans, who 
procured a copy of the MS. from Spain, and translated and 
published it in his invaluable series of Original Voyages and 
Eelations concerning America.* 

Besides the accounts of Oviedo, and the detached, com- 
piled chapters of Herraraj we have some references to the 
aborigines of Nicaragua in Torquemada's " Monarquia Indi- y 
ana," in the History of D. Carlos de Alva Ixtlixochitl, and ^/ 
in the later work of Gage, published in 1680. Don An- 
dreas Cerezeda, who accompanied Gil Gonzalez de Avila, as 
King's Treasurer, when he penetrated into Nicaragua in 1522, 
communicated the outlines of the expedition, with some ac- 
count of the country and its inhabitants, to Peter Martyr, 
which were incorporated by him in the third and fourth 
chapters of the sixth of his celebrated Decades. 

The monuments of the country have never been described 
until now, nor does their existence seem to have been known 
to the world previously to my own explorations there. 
Neither does it appear that, beyond a few words of the lan- 
guage of the Niquirans, vocabularies of any of the lan- 
guages had, up to that time, been procured. The latter 
deficiency has been very poorly supplied by the imperfect 

^ The copy in the original Spanish, which he possessed, is now in the 
library of Mr. Peter Force, of Washington, whose enlightened zeal, in col- 
lecting such materials as may serve to illustrate the history of the United 
States and of America, is only equalled by the broad liberality with which 
he permits their use by all to whom they may be valuable. 


op^s which it was my good fortune to obtain ; bnt beyond 
these fragments, nothing remains to us of the languages of 


My personal observations upon the aborigines of Nica- 
ragua were almost wholly confined to the region around the 
great lakes of the interior ; a region unerringly marked out 
by the circumstances of geographical position and physical 
conformation, as the theatre of vaster enterprises than hu- 
man daring has hitherto conceived, or human energy yet at^ 
tempted. Here nature has lavished her richest gifts, and 
assumed her most magnificent forms — ^high volcanoes, gentle 
slopes, level plains, and broad and beautiful lakes and rivers 
are here combined with a fertility of soil and a salubriousness 
of climate probably unsurpassed by any equal extent of 
country under the tropics. These were conditions eminently 
favorable for bringing together primitive communities of 
men, and for nurturing and sustaining a vast population. 
That it did so, we have the testimony of all the early chro- 
niclers ; and he who has passed over its broad plains and 
luxuriant slopes, and observed its attractions and resources, 
will be prepared to credit the assertion of the pious Las Casas, 
that it was "one of the best peopled countries in all 

" The great fertility of the soil/* says this early author, 
" the goodness of its air, and the vast number of its inhabi- 
tants, cannot be sufficiently expressed. There were cities 
there four leagues in length. The great quantities of excel- 
lent fruits that grow there, drew together these multitudes 
of people. Their cities were situated in vast plains, and the 
people, having no mountains near in which to hide them- 
selves, besides, the climate being so sweet, and the country 
so agreeable, that the inhabitants could not easily resolve to 
quit it, they were consequently more exposed than those of 


Other countries, to the persecution and outrages of the 

From the testimony of the early explorers, from the monu- 
ments, and other existing sources of information, we know 
1 that the Indians of Nicaragua were then, as now, divided 
into two vridely separated, if not radically distinct families, 
corresponding very nearly with the natural divisions of the 

Upon the low alluvions, and amongst the dense, dank forests 
of the Atlantic coast, there existed a few, scanty, wandering 
tribes, maintaining a precarious subsistence by hunting and 
fishing, with little or no agriculture, destitute of civil organ- 
izations, with a debased religion, and generally correspond- 
ing with the Caribs of the islands, to whom they sustained 
close aflSnities. Of these rude tribes it is not my present pxir- 
pose to speak. A portion of their descendants, still further 
debased by the introduction of negro blood, may still be 
found in the wretched Moscos or Mosquitos, who, by a brazen 
fraud, are attempted to be passed oflF upon the world as a sove- 
reign nation, comprehending the duties, and capable of ful- 
filling the requirements of government I The few and scat- 
tered Melchoras, on the river San Juan, are certainly of Garib 
stock, and it is more than probable that the same is true of 
the Woolwas, Eamas, Toacas, and Poyas, and also of the 
other tribes on the Atlantic coast, further to the southward, 

^ An Account of the first Voyages and Discoveries made hy the Sjpaniardg 
in America. By Don Bartholomew de las Gasas, Bishop of Chiapas, (edi- 
tion 1699,) p. 28. 

" There is not in all the Indies," says Oviedo, " a country more fertile, 
and better cultivated than this. The climate is healthy and agreeable, the 
waters excellent, game and fish abundant They harvest maise and 
fruits in vast quantities, and among the fruits is a kind of prunes from 
which they make delicious wine. They have trees which distil liquid am- 
ber, and cacao from which is made an excellent beverage. There are 
many deer, and dantas (tapirs), wild boars, and great numbers of tMrda.** 


towards Chiriqui Lagoon, and collectively denominated 

In the more elevated and salubrious regions around the 
great lakes of the interior, and upon the slopes of the Pacific, 
on the other hand, the natives had many features in common 
with the semi-civilized nations of Mexico, Guatemala, and 
Yucatan, and had made many advances in the same direction 
with them. Like these, they were divided into numerous 
tribes, or small sovereignties, with separate and independent 
chiefs or councils of government. With the single exception 
of those inhabiting the narrow strip of land between Lake 
Nicaragua and the Pacific, and who had also spread to the 
principal islands of the Lake, they appear to have been es- 
sentially one people, with like habits and customs, a common 
religion, and speaking, if not the same language, probably 
dialects of the same language. 

The exception to which I here refer, is one of the most 
remarkable facts in the history of the American aborigines. 
The inhabitants of this narrow isthmus, between the lake 
and ocean, were Mexicans, speaking the ancient Mexican 
language, and having a civil and social organization, as 
also~a system of religion, identical with those which prevailed 
amongst the Aztecs and their afl&liated nations. The evi- 
dence upon this point, furnished by my own investigations 
in the coimtry, is conclusive, and will shortly appear. It is 
only necessary here to say that this fact is sustained by the 
positive testimony of the historian Oviedo, who was in the 
country in the years immediately succeeding the conquest, 
and who speaks from his own personal knowledge. His 
language is as follows: "The Niqutrans,^^ i.e. the inhabit- 
ants of the district between the lake and ocean, "who speak 
the Mexican language, have the same manners and appear- 
ance as the people of New Spain." 

The remaining inhabitants of Nicaragua, this authority 
divides into two stocks, viz : those speaking the Chorotegan 


language and its dialects, and the Chontals or CJondals. The 
first of these, or the Chorotegans^ occupied the entire ooim- 
try north of the Niquirans, extending along the Pacific Ooean, 
between it and Lake Managua, to the borders, and probably 
I for a distance along the shores of the Gulf of Fonseca, They 
also occupied the country south of the Niquirans, and around 
the Gulf of Nicoya, then called Orotina, These were again 
separated into several divisions, all speaking the Chorotegan 
language, or dialects of it : 

I. The Dirians, or " people of the hills," who occupied 
the territory lying between the upper extremity of Lake Ni- 
caragua, the river Tipitapa, and the southern half of Lake 
Managua and the Pacific, whose principal towns were situ- 
ated where now stand the cities of Granada, then (called Sal- 
teba,) Masaya, and Managua, and the villages of Tipitapa, 
Diriomo, and Diriamba. According to Oviedo they were 
true Chorotegans. 

II. The Nagrandans, or people of Nagrando, those speak- 
ing the Nagrandan dialect. They occupied what is now call- 
ed the Plain of Leon, or the district between the northern 
extremity of Lake Managua and the Pacific. The name is 
preserved in that of the City of Leon, which is still sometimes 
called Leon de Nagrando. 

IIL The Cholutecans, speaking the Cholutecan dialect, 
situated to the northward of the Nagrandans, and extending 
along the Gulf of Fonseca, into what is now the territory of 
Honduras. A town and river in the territory here indicated, 
still bear the name of Choluteca, which however is a Mexi- 
can name. 

IV. The Orotinans, occupying the country around the 
Gulf of Nicoya, and to the southward of Lake Nicaragua. 

Concerning the Indians of the Chorotegan stock, Oviedo 
observes, that they were the enemies of the Niquirans, and 
that "their languages, manners, customs and ceremonies 
were so difierent," as to be utterly incomprehensible to the 


other. He nevertlieless adds, that their religion was the 
same ; and here it may be observed that all the religions of 
the semi-civilized nations of the central parts of the continent 
approximated to a common type. 

The Chondak or Chontals, the third great division men- 
tioned by Ovicdo, occupied the wide, mountainous region, 
still bearing the name of Chontales, situated to the northward 
of Lake Nicaragua, and midway between the nations already 
named and the savage hordes bordering the Caribbean Sea, 
to whom, it is possible, they may have in some degree as- 
similated. "These Indians," says Oviedo, "have no con- 
nection with the Chorotegans and Niquirans, and speak a 
. language as different from theirs as the Basque is from the 
German." He nevertheless leaves the inference that their 
religion was very much the same. Herrara adds, that they 
were "a mountainous people and clownish;" and I am in- 
formed by the Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg, that the name 
itself in one of the Maya dialects, signifies " strangers," or 
people from abroad. 

The chroniclers seem to agree in representing the Chorote- 
gans as the original occupants and predominating family in 
the country, the autochOiones, " Those speaking the Chorote- 
gan language," says Oviedo, "are the aborigines of the coun- 
try, and its ancient masters." Herrara asserts that among 
them, those speaking the Cholutecan language were "the 
original and most ancient, held the estates, and had the cacoa- 
nuts, which were the money and wealth of the country." It 
is difl&cult to understand what is meant by this observation, 
unless it is that there existed among the people a class arro- 
gating, like the Incas, a superiority over the others, and 
speaking a " court language," or one in some respects differ- 
ing from theirs. 

It seems therefore that, at the time of the discovery, there 
existed in Nicaragua two grand families of Indians, whose 

VOL. n. 40 


probable relations and subdivisions are exhibited in the fol- 
lowing table : 

Ohroteoans ; 


' Embracing the Walknaay or 
Moscos, Mdchoras, Wool- 
was, Toacas, Poyas, and the 
other detached tribes sita- 
ated on the Caribbean Sea^ 
and to the east and south- 



CnoLUTECANS J A Mexican Colony. Garibs. 
NiQUiRANS ; A Mexican Colony. 

Chondals • \ Approximating to 
' i the Savage tribea 

ward ot the Gulf of Nicoja. 

Oviedo informs ns that there were five totally distinct lan- 
guages spoken in Nicaragua, and Gomera enumerates them 
as follows, viz: the Niquiran or Mexican, the Chorotegan, 
Orotinan, Chondal, and Caribisi, or Carib. The general, geo- ' 
graphical distribution of these languages will be inferred from 
what has already been said of the distribution of the various 
aboriginal stocks in Nicaragua. The Chondal, according to 
Hervas, extended as far as Oaxaca. This could not have 
been the fact, unless it was identical with, or closely related 
to, the Maya, Quiche, Poconchi, and Huasteca; which hardly 
harmonizes with the concurrent testimony of the chroniclers, 
that the Chondals were an exceedingly rude people, speaking 
a rude language. 


Previous to my visit to Nicaragua, no vocabularies of any 
of these languages were in existence. From the Indians of 
Subtiaba, near Leon, in the north-western part of the coun- 
try, I procured a vocabulary of about two hundred words ; 
and another vocabulary of about the same number of words, 
from the Indians of Masaya, a hundred miles to the south- 
ward of Leon, and in the territory immediately adjoining that 
which we know was occupied by the Niquirans, or the Mex- 
ican Colony. These two languages have no verbal resem- 


blances, whatever similarity may liave existed in their gram- 
matical features*; and as Oviedo, in one or two places says 
expressly that, the Indians around the Lake of Masaya spoke 
the Chorotegan language, we are driven to the conclusion 
that that which was spoken near Leon was the Orotinan. 
This was undoubtedly spoken by the Indians south of the 
Niquirans, around the Gulf of Orotina, where the volcano of 
Oroti, or Orosi, still perpetuates their name. 

But until we have vocabularies, from the known seats of 
the Orotinans, I shall not venture to call the language which 
was spoken on the Plain of licon by that name. Meantime, 
I prefer to call it, from the aboriginal name of that district, 
Ndgrandan. The language of which I procured a vocabulary 
at Masaya, following the authority of Oviedo, I have called 
Chorotegan, or Dirian. Oviedo gives but one word of this 
language, viz: nambtj dog, which is the precise word still 
retained. Some of the names of places and natural objects 
within the area in which this language was spoken, seem to 
have a relationship to certain Peruvian names. Thus Mo- 
mobacho, Momotombo, and others, sound wonderfully like 
Moyobamba, Tambobamba, Guamabacho, etc. It would be 
interesting to take up the suggestion, and inquire whether 
there is really any relationship between the languages of Peru 
and Central America; but this I have not now the means of 

From the Indians yet residing on the Island of Ometepec, 
I procured, with great diflBculty, a few words, and some of 
their numerals. This island was occupied by the Niquirans, 
and the words which I recovered coincide precisely with the 
Mexican. Indeed the very name of this island, distinguished 
for two high volcanic peaks, is pure Mexican, Om€, two, and 
tepec^ mountain. 

The region of Chontales was visited by my friend Mr. Julius 
Frcebel, in the summer of this year (1851). He penetrated 
to the head waters of the Rio Mico, Escondido, or Bluefields, 



where he found the Indians to be agriculturists, partially civi- 
lized, and generally speaking the Spanish language. They are 
called Caribs by their Spanish neighbors, but have themselves 
a vague tradition that they came originally from the shores 
of Lake Managua. Mr. Froebel procured a brief vocabulary 
of their original language, which, however, seems to have 
little affinity to any of the languages spoken elsewhere in 
the country, on the coast, or in the interior. I have given it 
the name of Chondal, from the fact that it exists in the dis- 
trict of Chontales, and to distingxiish it from the others. It 
may be questioned whether it is the true Chondal (or what 
the early writers called by that name), or even a dialect of 

The following brief table comprises words from the various 
languages ascertained to have existed in Nicaragua. A few 
words of Mexican have been introduced to facilitate com- 
parison with the Niquiran, which, however, is really Mexi- 
can, differing from the latter in no essential I'espect, except 
that the terminals tl or tli are contracted or wholly omitted. 




or Dirian. 



Waikna, or 
































































tecpatl • 







rah pa 











































wal wal 













Of wliat I have called Cfwrotegan^ or Dirian, I was only 
able to procure the vocabulary, which is presented on a subse- 
quent page ; but of the Nagrandan^ after much trouble, and 
through the assistance of my friend, Col. Francisco Diaz 
Zapata, I obtained some of the grammatical rules and forms 
of construction, and to this language the following remarks 
are applicable. 

Neither the article nor the preposition is expressed. The 
man speaks, rahpa-data. The rage of the dog, gaku-romocL 
Dog with rage, romoa-gahu. Beauty of the woman, musO" 
rapdku. Woman with beauty, rapaku-musa. 

The plural is formed by adding nu to the singular, thus : 
ruscu^ bird ; rtiscunu, birds ; eshe, tree ; eshenu, trees. 

The degrees of comparison seem to liave been indicated by 
prefixes, of which, however, there are but two, equivalent, 
in their signification, to more and most, and to better and 
best. They are moA, better or more , pooru or purv^ best or 
most. For example : 

MeheHa good. 

mah-mehena hetter-goodj or more good, 

puru-mehcHa best good^ or most good. 

Deficiency or diminution, was expressed by ai or maij 
thus : ai-meliefla or mai-mehefla, bad, or lacking-good. 

Of a man fair of complexion, or what they understand to be 
of better complexion than another, i. e., a better man, moA- 
rahpa. To run is dagalnu or nagagnu, and runner is dagalni; 
fast runner, mah-ddgalni ; very fast runner, puru-dagalnt, 
Ahmba, old; mah-ahmba or ahmba-nu, older, or more old; 
puru-ahmba^ very old. In the Mexican, this is effected by 
reduplication, as hue, old, hue-htie, old-old, or very old. The 
word amba or 'mia, sometimes has the value of great, and as 
such it appears in the numerals ; thus dirlOj ten, diftoambOj 
great ten, or old ten, L e., the first power of ten, or one hun- 



dred. Tahi is small ; chichi^ very small. In the combina- 
tions of these, and also of ahmba or amba, as in the Mexican, 
the final syllable only is used. Thus egni, fish ; egnimba^ big 
fish ; egnihi, little fish ; egnxch% very little fish. 
The pronouns are as follows : — 



We, (m) 


We, (f) 




Ye, (m) 


Ye, (f ) 






They, (m) 


They, (f ) 




This, (m) 
This, (f ) 
These, (m) 
These, (f ) 
Mine, (m) 
Mine, (f ) 
Yours, (m) 
Yours, (0 











I could not procure a complete paradigm of any verb. 
C!ol. Zapata furnished me with the following, embracing some 
of the inflexions 9f the verbs, 5a, to be, and aiha, to come. 
I am a little skeptical about the accuracy of the future 
tenses of sa. 


-To BE. 



I am, 
Thou art, 
He is. 




We are, so. 

Ye are, soa. 

They are, aula. 


I was, cani. 

Thou wast cana. 
He was, cans. 

We were, canana. 
Ye were, cananoi. 
They were, lacanani. 



Preterite Definite, 


I was, 8ic4. 

Thou wast, sacho. 

He was, sa ca. 


We were, sa cua. 
Ye were, sa cuahL 
They were, sa gahu. 


I had been, znucasinL 

Thou hadst been, mucanasinL [Plural the eame,] 

He had been, mucanasadinL 

I shall be. 
Thou wilt be, 
He will be, 

Future Aheohde, 

lamanambL We shall be, lamananna. 
same. Ye will be, lamananna. 

same. They will be, lamana. 

Future Anterior, 

I shall have been, malamana. We shaU have been, lamana. 

Thou wilt have been, lama. Ye will have been, lamala. 

He will have been, lama. They will have been, lamalahi. 

AiHA, Tmi, OB Ahiha To Come. 


I come, icunaha. 

Thou comest, icanaha. 
He comos^ icannaha. 

We come, hechelunagubia. 
Ye come, hechelaguhala. 
They come, icagunuguha. 


I did come, icunahalu. We did come, hechelunagubaliL 

Thou didst come, icanahacha. Ye did come, hechelanaguabala. 
He did come, icaunahalu. They did come, icagunaguhalu. 


We came, hechelusagualalu. 

I came, icusanaha. , „ 

Thoa camest^ icasanacaha. Ye came, hechelasagnalala. 

~ icaosahaltt. They came, icaguinaaagnnhnln. 




I had come, icuschisaliL We had come^ hechelunigaalahL 

Thou hadst come, icaschisahala. Ye had come, hedielaniguilahL 
He had come, icausahalu. They had come, icaguinusehbag- 


Futurt AbsoltUe, 

I shall come, icugaha. We shall come, hecheluguha. 

Thou wilt come, icaguhacha. Ye will come, hechulaguabda. 
He will come, icaugaha. They will come, icaugnugunhualu. 

JFhdure Anterior. 

I shall have come, icuvihiluniha. We shall haYe come, hechehiyihi- 

Thou wilt have come, icavihilunecha- Ye will have come, hechulavihi- 

la. lunigula. 

He will have come, icauguivihilu- They will have come, icauinuahe- 

niahalu. nigahaakL 

, Imperative, 

Come thou, ahijaica. Let us come, ahiyohecheo. 

Let him come, gahahaguL Let them come, gunhuaganenu. 

Conditional Present 

I should come, icugahalu. We should come, hechelugualalu. 

Thou wouldst come, icagahachala. Ye would come, hechalamagua- 


He would come, icaugahalu. They would come, icauguinumag- 


Second Conditional Poet 

in had come, icumahaluvihilu. Ifwe had come, hechelumainuea- 

If thou hadst come, icamaimacha. If ye had come, hechelamagunhu- 

If he had come, icaugaimaimaha. If they had come, icauguinasohi- 


I am not prepared to say that the above inflexions are al- 
together correct; I nevertheless give them as they were 
communicated to me. I can only add to the above, ifrom my 
own knowledge, 

Daiya, to see ; 

Sadaiyama, to have seen ; 
Daiyanga, seeing. 

Dahta^ to speak ; 

Dahtanga, speaking. 

I have said that the Indians of the Atlantic Coast of Nica- 
ragua, the Moscos and others, were probably of Carib stock. 
This opinion is founded, not only upon the express state- 
ments of Herrara, who says that " the Carib language was much 
spoken in Nicaragua," but also upon their general appearance, 
habits, and modes of life. Their language does not appear 
to have any direct relationship with that of the Southern 
Caribs; but is probably the same, or a dialect of the same 
with that spoken around what is now called Chiriqui Lagoon, 
near the Isthmus of Panama, and which was originally 
called Chiribiri, or Chraibici, from which comes Gomera's 
Caribici or Carib.* 

The subjoined table comprises a list of about two hun- 
dred words in the Nagrangan and Dirian, or Chorotegan dia- 
lects or languages. I have also added a list of Moscan, or 
Mosquitian words, derived from the copious vocabulary la- 
boriously collected by my friend Mr. A. J. Cotheal, in the 

* Thirteen leagues from the Gulf of Nicoya, (towards the east, doubt- 
less,) Oviedo speaks of a village called Carabizi, where the same language 
was spoken as at Chiriqui. The country on the Pacific, in the same lati- 
tude with Chiriqui, was called Cabiores ; and next to it was a province 
called Durucaca ; of both of which the inhabitants were barbarous and 
degraded — whence the Spaniards, in token of their contempt for the Jews, 
called this section of country, Judea. 



Second Yolume of the Transactions of the American Ethno- 
logical Society. 


CHOBomiv, or Dnux. 


1 God 


2 Devil 




3 Man 




4 Woman 




5 Boy 




6 Girl 




7 Child 




8 Father 




9 Mother 




10 Husband 




11 Wife 




12 Son 




13 Daughter 




14 Brother 




15 Sister 



16 Head 

a'cu or edi 



17 Hair 




18 Face 




19 Forehead 




20 Ear 




21 Eye 




22 Nose 




23 Mouth 




24 Tongue 




25 Tooth 




26 Beard 




27 Neck 



28 Arm 




29 Hand 



30 Fingers 



31 Nails 




32 Body 




33 Belly 




34 Leg 




35 Foot 




36 Toes 






37 Bone 

38 Heart 

39 Blood 

40 Chief 

41 Friend . . 

42 House or hut gua 




43 Kettle 

44 Arrow 

45 Bow 

46 Axe 

47 Knife 

48 Canoe 

49 Bread 

50 Tobacco 

51 Sky 

52 Moon 

53 Sun 

54 Star 

55 Day 

56 Night 

57 Season 

58 Year 

59 Wind 

60 Lightning 

61 Thunder 

62 Rain 

63 Fire 

64 Water 

65 Earth 

66 Sea 

67 River 

68 Creek 

69 Island 

70 Stone 

75 Grass 








CBOBOiMAir, or Douur. 



be or belu 















esee or esenu 



































dore I 


twaka ? 



























E1QLI8H. NAORABMur. CBOMyraoAV, or Dblui. Mokas. 

Deer numbongame aula 

Squirrel biscaha buteong 

Dog romoa nambi yul 

80 Rabbit kaiaki 

Snake apu nule piuta 

^gg ragha nuguloge marbra 

Turkey chimpepo kusu 

Fish egni pocuguet inska 

90 White mesha andirume pine 

Black medagina nansome siksa 

Red manga arimbome paune 

Green masha sane 

Small chichi nasunge silpe 

100 Great oompa nema tara 

Old ahmba nuhjumbe almuk 

Young datie, nosominyumu wama 

Good mehena yamne 

Bad aimehcna saura 

105 Dead ganganu gagame pruan 

I icu saho yung 

Thou ica sumusheta ruan 

He ica wetin 

We hechelu semehmu yung-nani 

110 Ye hechela " man-nani 

They icanu wetin-nani 

This cala naha 

That cagui baha 

All duwawa semehmu puk 

115 Many pocope nia 

Much nia 

Who dia 

Near inge lama 

To-day endola yazra na-iua 

120 Yesterday deshe iua-wala 

To-morrow gase paseanyaro yunka 

Yes mena au? 

No unta aco ahia 

Buttock gashtug 

125 Bird pusku 

A Fly nug 




130 Word 

135 Hat 
To Eat 

140 To Drink 
To Run 
To Leap 
To Come 
To Go 

145 To Sing 
To Sleep 
To Speak 
To See 
To Kill 

150 To Love 
To Ask 
To Take 











auha { 








aiyu or icu 









CHORonoAV, or Dxniv. 


To keep silent pruisha 

To Know 
155 To Die 




165 Flower 









aroya ? 

















ik-aia ? 












The word for Tnan in the Moscan language, is Waikna; and 
Waikna is the name which the Moscan Indians, before their 
debasement by intermixture with the negroes, arrogated to 
themselves. It was a very common practice amongst the 
aborigines of America, to distinguish their tribe by a word, 
meaning " the Men," par excellence. This is the significance 
of the name Apache^ borne by the roving Indians of north- 
ern Mexico. With the Athapascas, dennee^ the Algonquins 
and others, mne, with the Muyscans, mnysca, and with the 
Araucanians, reche, all signified the men, or pure men, and en- 
tered into the designations of the various tribes. 

Subjoined is the vocabulary, procured by Mr. Froebel, in 
Chontales, and referred to on page 314. As there observed, 
it does not seem to have any affinity with the other Nicara- 
guan languages, except a faint relationship, in the infiexions 
of the verb, with the Nagrandan. 


































Air, Wind 











nagua r 






papani ? 




mamani ? 











Littie boy 




Little girl 











6 dijca, or muydijca 



7 bajca, or muybajca 



8 muyacca 



9 yaccabavo 



10 muyhasluy 

To sleep 


To eat 


I am 


Thou art 


He is 


We are 


Ye are 


They are 



So far as can be ascertained, the Indians of Nicaragua 
practiced a system of numeration corresponding with that 
common to nearly all the civilized, and some of the barbarous, 
nations of the continent. That is to say, they used what Mr. 
Gallatin has denominated the vigiritesimal system^ instead of 
the decimal — i. e. counted by twenties instead of tens. Among 
the Esquimaux, the Algonquins, the Choctaws, and some 
other nations and families, it seems that the primitive method 
of counting was by fives. This is what may be called ^7i<7(?r- 
counting ; and that their system of numbers originated in 
counting first the fingers of one hand, then of both, and 
finally both fingers and toes, is established by the names of 
the numerals themselves. The word expressing the number 
5, in the Carib of Essequibo, the Moscan, and some other 
languages, means one hand; that expressing 10, two hands, or 
both hands ; that expressing 20, a man, i. e. both hands and 
feet. In the Esquimaux, 8, 9, and 10 respectively mean the 
middle, the fourth, and the little finger.* The Peruvians and 

^ Crantz says of the Esquimaux, " Their proper numeral table is five . 
then counting on their fingers thy call six by the name of the first finger, 
and for the following, repeat two, three, four, five; and count from ten to 
twenty with their toes. Sometimes, instead of twenty they say * a manf 
for one hundred ^five men' " 



Araucanians had a purely decimal system. Humboldt has 
shown that the vigintesimal system existed in the Basque — 
that enigmatical language, which seems to hold more and 
closer affinities to some of those of America, than any known 
to have existed in Europe. 

I was able to procure the numerals complete of only the 
Nagrandan dialect or language. They are given below. It 
will be observed that there is a simple, uncompounded word 
for few, and another for twenty. 

1 Imba . 


2 Apu 

• • 


3 Asu . 


4 Acu 

• • 


5 Huisu . 


6 Mahu . • 

• • 


7 Niquinu 


8 Nuha 

• • 

. 8 

9 Melnu 


10 GUHA 


. 10 

11 Guanimba 


12 Guanapu . 

• *• • 

. 10+2 

13 Guanasu 


14 Giianacu . 

. 10+4 

15 Guanisu 


16 Guanmahu 

• • 

. 10+6 

17 Guanquinu 


18 Guanuha . 

• • 

. 10+8 

19 Guanmelnu . 


20 DiNO, imbadino, or ' 


. 1X20 

21 'Badinoimbanu 

• • • 


22 *Badinoapunu . 

• • 


23 'Badinoasunu 

• • • 


30 'Badinoguhanu . 

• . 


31 'Badinoguanimbanu 

• • • 

1 X20+10+1 

32 'BadinoguaDapunu 

. • 


33 'Badinoguanasunu 





40 Apudino .... 


41 Apudinoimbanu 


42 ApudinoapuDu .... 


43 Apudinoasunu 


50 Apudinoguhanu .... 


51 Apudinoguanimbanu . 


52 ApudinoguanapuDu 


60 Asudino .... 


70 Asudinoguhanu .... 


80 Acudino .... 


90 Acudinoguhanu .... 


100 HuisudiBo or guhamba 

5x20 or great ten 

200 Guahadino .... 


400 Diuoamba .... 

Great twenty 

1000 Guhaisudino .... 


2000 Hisudinoamba 

Five great twenties 

4000 Guhadinoamba .... 

Ten great twenties 

The terminal amha or mba in the Nagrandan language 
signified great or increase ; one hundred, therefore, is some- 
times called guJiamba or great ten ; dmoamia or great 
twenty is four hundred ; and ten great twenties is four thou- 
sand. In common, I believe, with the Maya only, the Na- 
grandan words for 40, 60, 80, 100, etc., mean respectively 
twice twenty, three, four and five times twenty. In common 
also with the Maya, the numerals from 20 to 39 are com- 
pounded of 20 and the numerals from one to nineteen, with 
the addition of the terminal nw, which is the sign of the 
plural. But in the Maya this terminates with 40, while in the 
Nagrandan it is continued throughout, from 40 to 60, 60 to 
80, etc. 

Col. Galindo has given us the names of six tribes of Indians 
in Costa Rica, of none of which have we any vocabularies. 
Neither have we any of the languages spoken in San Salva- 
dor, and in Honduras. There is reason to believe, however, 
that the Chondal extended into the latter state, as also the 


language spoken on the coast. It is also probable that^ the 
language which I have called the Nagrandan, prevailed 
amongst the aborigines occupying the salubrious, central 
plateau of Honduras. This I infer from the names of 
Chinandega, Posultega, Chichigalpa, Comogalpa, on the plain 
of Leon, and Matagalpa, Tegucigalpa, etc., which are clearly 
from one source, on the plateau of Honduras. 

In Guatemala there existed a variety of languages or dia- 
lects, stated at eighteen and at twenty-four, of which the 
Poconchi, the Quiche, Quichekiel or Kachiquiel, Sinca, 
Chorti, Mam, and Subtugil were the principal. The voca- 
bularies of none of these, so far as we are enabled to institute 
comparisons, sustain any relation to those of Nicaragua. 

That the Niquirans were Mexicans, requires no further or 
better proof than is afiForded by the fragments of their lan- 
guage already presented. The fact, as we have seen, was 
distinctly asserted by the early voyagers ; but as they did 
not present any evidence in support of their statement, it 
never received full credit among students. Indeed, as late 
as 1850, Dr. Latham, in his erudite work on " The Varieties 
of Man," regards the evidence on this point as " by no means 
conclusive.'*' In completing the evidence, and establishing 
incontestibly that such a colony did exist in Nicaragua, at 
the period of the discovery in the fifteenth century, I have 
the satisfaction of fixing one more and a very important point 
of departure in American Ethnological inquiries ; important^ 
as showing that this continent has not been exempt from 
those migrations, corresponding to the currents and tides of 
the ocean, which have, earlier or later, swept over every 
part of the Old World, and affected so remarkably, by inter- 
mixture and change of soil and climate, the condition and 
relations of its inhabitants. 

We have then presented to us the extraordinary pheno- 
menon of a fragment of a great aboriginal nation, widely se- 
parated from the parent stock, and intruded among other 


and hostile nations ; yet, from the comparative lateness of 
the separation, or some other cause, still retaining its ori- 
ginal, distinguishing features, so as to be easily recognized. 
The causes which led to their migration from Mexico, can 
probably never be accurately known. They have a tradition 
that they came from the north-west ; and that they left their 
original seats in consequence of having been overpowered by 
a hostile nation, superior to themselves in numbers, who, not 
satisfied with conquering them in battle, made slaves of them, 
sacrificed their women and children, and outraged them in 
various ways. They called the country from whence they came 
Ticoraega Emaguatega, which name corresponds with none with 
which we are acquainted. This tradition receives a strong 
support from Torquemada, who states it as a historical fact, 
current in Mexico itself, that, at a very early period, two consi- 
derable Mexican nations dwelling in Soconusco, on the coast 
of Oaxaca, near Tehuantepec, were attacked by the Ulmeques, 
who had been their enemies before their settlement in that 
region — leaving the inference that there had been an anterior 
migration of the same nations, probably from the valley of 
Anahuac. The Ulmeques subdued them, imposed on them 
the most grievous burthens, and sacrificed numbers of them 
to their gods. Reduced to despair, they consulted their priests, 
who directed them to depart from the country — ^which they 
did, going southward. These, he adds, after various adven- 
tures, arrived in Nicaragua, where they were well received 
by the people, who made room for them on the shores of the 
lake. They afterwards extended their limits by war and al- 

Fragments, Torquemada adds, dropped oflF from the main 

^ In another part of his History, Torquemada gives an account of a 
pretended conquest of Nicaragua by Montezuma, in which, however, is 
mixed up the same circumstances elsewhere related as connected with the 
migration; showing, as observed by M. Temeauz Gompans, that itisonlj 
the old tradition, applied to modem times. 

VOL. n. 42 


body in Guatemala, where they built Mictlan (City of the 
Dead) and Yzcuitlan (City of the Rabbit), and where there 
still exist numerous places bearing names of Mexican origin. 
Amongst the migrating tribes he mentions the Cholultecas, 
as separating from the rest, and settling on the Gulf of Ni- 
coya. He probably means to say the Gulf of Fonseca, where, 
as we have seen, the name is still perpetuated. This opinion 
is supported by his subsequent declaration, that one portion 
of the people, amongst whom the Mexicans intruded them- 
selves, fled to Nicoya, thus accoimting for the division of 
the Chorotegans already referred to. Torquemada also 
states that the Mexicans founded a city on Lake Managua, 
which they called Xolotlan, or in Chorotegan language Na- 
grando. But if so, it seems most likely that they afterwards 
abandoned the position. Had they held it at the time of the 
Conquest, the fact would not have escaped Oviedo. 

It has been supposed that the Pipil Indians, occupying the 
coast of San Salvador, were also of Mexican origin, and ar- 
rived in Central America at the same time with the colony 
in Nicaragua. We have no vocabulary of their language, 
but the names of most of the places in the region which they 
occupied, or occupy, are clearly Mexican. Istepec, Usulatan, 
Sesuntei^ec, Cuscutlan, Suchil tepee, Cojutepec, Cuyutitan, 
Jilpango, etc., are unmistakably Mexican. It has, however, 
been suspected that the friendly Indians from Mexico, who 
accompanied Alvarado in his conquest of the country, were 
established here, and that the names to which I have referred 
were given by them. This is a point which is yet open 
to investigation ; meantime, I incline to the belief that a 
Mexican colony also existed in San Salvador. 

The Mexican historian, Ixtlixochitl, records that at the 
period of the destruction of the Toltecan Empire, in the year 
Cetecpatl, or 959 of our era, a part of those who survived went 
to the southward, to Nicaragua. But the traditions of the 
people themselves indicate that the recital of Torquemada is 


nearest the truth. It seems, therefore, that this colony, like 
that of the Mormons in the Valley of the Salt Lake, and that 
of the Jews in Palestine, was founded by a general migration, 
undertaken in consequence of persecutions, through the midst 
of intervening nations — an armed migration, giving war to 
the weak and the hostile, and negotiating with the friendly. 
It is curious and important to know of an authentic instance 
w^here migrations of this kind have take taken place on this 
continent, in estimating the possible, as well as the probable, 
relationship which may exist between its various families. 

That similar separations and migrations have occurred in 
the night of American history seems undoubted ; but at 
periods so remote, that the offshoots have lost their original 
features, or have retained them in a modified and obscured 
form, painful to the investigator, because suggestive of rela- 
tions which it is impossible clearly to establish. We have 
a remarkable example in the Natchez, a small tribe on the 
Mississippi river, whose institutions civil and religious, man- 
ners, habits, and customs, approximated closely to the Peru- 
vians ; more closely, in fact, than to any other nation of the 
continent. Enigmatical fragments like these, scattered over 
both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, betoken a 
high antiquity for the American race. 

The causes which led to these separations, and the motives 
which impelled the American nations to divisions and migra- 
tions, must probably remain forever unknown, except so far 
as they may be inferred from the recorded history of the 
old world. For, after all, man, of whatever race or however 
situated, is subject to the same laws, and guided by the 
same influences. The state of separation, disruption, as it is 
sometimes called, in which the American race was found, 
has been variously attributed to a radical, physiological defect 
in its character, to extraordinary natural phenomena, con- 
vulsions of nature, such as are said to have swallowed up the 
island of Atlantis, — calamities filling men with a terror so 


monstrous, that, handed down from race to race, it darkened 
their intellects, and hardened their hearts, and drove them, 
flying from each other, far from the blessings of social life. 
To me, however, this separation and sub-division of the 
aboriginal race, and the exclusion of its different families, in 
respect to each other, seem rather due to long periods of time, 
and long continued migrations of single nations and tribes, 
fix)m one portion of the continent to the other. 

The discoverers, when they landed on the shores of our own 
country, found one great current of migration setting from 
the North*west, upon the region now occupied by the New 
England and Middle States. Another flowing from the 
direction of Texas and New Mexico into the Southern States 
east of the Mississippi ; and the slow but constant southward 
tendency of the Oregon tribes, has been a fi^uent subject of 
remark among observers. I do not now refer to those traces 
of vast populations, antedating all traditions, which abound in 
the Mississippi Valley, mute but most truthful and impres- 
sive witnesses of ancient migrations — not of single tribes and 
petty nations, but of vast families of men. 

The causes of these migrations, as I have said, must proba- 
bly remain conjectural. It is the popular belief that most 
have been from the north towards the south ; and the 
plausible explanation, that more genial climates and fertile 
soils were the impelling causes to them, has been generally 
accepted. Yet, like many other popular beliefs, it is emi- 
nently unfounded. The great tides of men have flowed very 
nearly upon the same parallels of latitude. The descent of 
the Germans on Eome was no migration, as compared with 
these ; it was the eddy, the outward flow of the great current, 
which afterwards swept over the ocean barrier, traversed a 
new world, and is now gathering its strength on the golden 
shores of the Pacific. 



Our knowledge of the antiquities of Central America, 
extends only to those found in the northern portion of that 
interesting, but as yet little known country; and is confined 
to the monuments at Copan, in Honduras, and Quirigua and 
Quichd or Quesaltenango, in Guatemala. The researches of 
Messrs. Stephens and Catherwood, in conjunction with a few 
incidental notices from Galindo and others, have made these 
familiar to the world, and excited the deepest interest as to 
the results of future investigations. The extent of population 
and the degree of civilization which they indicate, have 
naturally led to the conclusion that many others exist in the 
same regions, the discovery of which will reward the adven- 
turous explorer, and throw new light upon the primitive 
civilization of the New World. 

But in prosecuting researches here, there are many difficul- 
ties to be encountered, which can be but imperfectly estima- 
ted by those not on the spot. The population of Central 
America is small, and almost entirely confined to certain 
narrow localities upon the Pacific slope; and the political 
circumstances of the people, as well as the state of education 
among them, have been such as to afibrd little encouragement 
to archaeological studies. As a consequence, they know fer 
less than the people of the United States, of the aboriginal 
monuments of their own vicinity. Little information of im- 
portance to the investigator can be gathered from them. 
Besides, by fiir the greater proportion of the country is in its 
primitive state, and covered with dense, tangled, and almost 
impenetrable tropical forests, rendering fruitless all attempts 
at systematic investigation. There are vast tracts, untrodden 
by human feet, or traversed only by Indians, who have a 
superstitious reverence for the moss-covered and crumbling 
monuments that are hidden in the depths of the wilderness, 
and which their vague traditions tell them are remnants of 


the greatness of their fathers, the shrines and statues of 
their ancieuit gods, which it is a religious duty to hide from 
the profane intrusion of an alien race. These Indians are 
often unfriendly; and it is only at the risk of life that ad- 
vances can be made into their fastnesses. From them but 
little can be gathered ; and if any discoveries are made, it 
must be by accident. The hunter or the herdsman may 
encounter ancient remains in the wilderness; and if they arc 
remarkable, or he is curious, he may mark the spot and be 
able to point it out to the traveller. But the information 
he may be able to give is always of an uncertain character, 
and leaves the inquirer, if not in actual doubt as to the exist- 
ence of anything worthy of his attention, at least under the 
apprehension that, even after a long and fatiguing journey, 
and sSter enduring every kind of hardship, he may be unable 
to discover the object of his search. For these and other 
reasons, it will be long before the treasures of the past, which 
exist in Central America, can become fully known. Their 
investigation must be the gradual work of time, in which 
individuals can but partially assist. 

Most of the monuments which fell under my observation 
have been described in the preceding narrative. I have no 
doubt, however, that many will be discovered, as the coun- 
try becomes better known. Indeed, I heard of a number of 
localities where remains are to be found, but which my occu- 
pations would not allow me to visit. Amongst the most 
remarkable of these are the traces of immense works in the dis- 
trict of Chontales, near the Indian town of Juygalpa, on the 
northern shore of Lake Nicaragua, nearly opposite the city 
of Granada. They were observed by Dr. Livingston in his 
visit to the gold mines of that region ; and are described by 
him as consisting of trenches three or four yards broad at the 
bottom, and extending indefinitely, in a right line, across the 
savannas, and into the depths of the forest. He followed 
one for upwards of a mile. At intervals the trenches widen, 


forming elliptical, sunken areas, sixty or eighty feet in diam- 
eter. In one of these areas, and on a line transversely to 
that of the trench, were two small mounds of stone, in the 
next area four mounds, and so on, alternately. These mounds 
were five or six feet in height, and placed with the utmost 
regularity. The purposes of these singular remains, as well 
as their extent, until further and complete investigation, 
must remain matters of conjecture. It may nevertheless be 
observed, that there are traditions of a ruined city, with a 
variety of singular monuments, near Juygalpa, of which it 
may be worth the trouble of the adventurous explorer to de- 
termine the truth. It is very certain that the late Chevalier 
Frederickthal obtained some monuments from the northern 
shore of the lake, — but their fate is unknown. 

In my visit to the volcano of Las Pilas, in what was an- 
ciently the populous province of Marabios, about twenty 
miles north-east of Leon, and near the base of the volcano of 
Orota, I was shown a number of low moimds of earth and 
stone, rectangular, and set round the edges with stones, which 
seemed to have been the sites, or foundations of ancient 
buildings. They were covered and surrounded by fragments 
of broken pottery. It is possible that they indicated burial 
places; but I had no means of excavating them, to determine 
the fact. 

In Honduras, as also in San Salvador, I heard of remains 
and monuments, equal to those of Copan in extent and in- 
terest, which I had no opportunity of visiting, but which I 
hope to be able to investigate in person, at no very remote 

In respect to the monuments which I have described, and 
their probable origin, Uttle need be said. They may differ 
somewhat amongst themselves in antiquity, for it is not to be 
supposed that they were all made at the same period. But 
there is no good reason for supposing, that they were not 
made by the nations found in possession of the country. It 


will, in &ct, be seen in another connection, that they had 
idols of stone in their temples, which were carved of different 
forms, to represent the various divinities worshipped by their 
makers. These temples were structures of wood, surrounded 
by altars, or high-places of earth and stone ; upon which, as 
in Mexico, sacrifices were performed. Many of these temples 
were burned by the conquerors, the high-places destroyed, 
and the idols broken in pieces. And I have had frequent 
occasion to remark, that by far the greater proportion of the 
monuments yet remaining, bear indubitable marks of the 
conquerors' religious zeal, in their battered feces and broken 

It may seem somewhat incongruous that while Nicaragua 
was inhabited by people of different families— the autoch- 
thones and the intruders from Mexico — ^that their monuments 
should have sustained so close a resemblance. But while 
the feet, they that differed wholly in language, and greatly in 
manners and customs, is aflSrmed by the early chroniclers; 
the additional fact that they were alike, or closely assimilat- 
ed, in religion, is also as distinctly affirmed. 

The monuments found in the island of Zapatero, which 
there is every reason to believe was occupied by the Niqui- 
rans, differ only in size, and their more elaborate workman- 
ship, from those found at Momotombita, Subtiaba, and other 
places. Monoliths appear to have been common to all the 
semi-civilized nations of North America. They were found 
even at Palenque, where Mr. Stephens discovered one, of 
which a drawing is here introduced, for th^ purpose of illus- 
trating a remark which has already been made, respecting the 
occurrence of the cross, in some of the aboriginal monuments. 
A number at Zapatero are distinguished by this feature ; 
which, it is possible, was intended to represent some kind of 
head-dress. Archaeologists are aware that the early monkish 
writers, laid great stress upon the fact that crosses were 
discovered in various parts of America, at the time of the Con* 



queat. They deduced therefrom some very extraordinarjr coa- 
clusions, Don Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora speaks of one 
drawn from the cave of Mizteca Baxa, 
. and veucTated, in his day, in the convont- 
[ ual church of Tonala, dedicated to St. 
I Dominic. This cross he avers was "dis- 
covered by the music of angels being 
heard in the said cave, on every vigil 
of the glorious ai)08tle St. Thomas," 
who, according to his hypothesis, in- 
troduced Christianity into America, imme- 
diately after the era of Christ. Gomara 
mentions cases in Yucatan; and Boturini 
testifies to having frequently met with 
them in the paintings. Ilia error, how- 
ever, consists in mistaking tiic symbolical 
" TtmacaqvahuUl," or Tree of Life, for a 
cross. This is not the place to attempt 
an explanation of the ideas connected 
with this symbol. It was represented 
with branches something in the form 
of a cross, surmounted by "a bird. This 
form was retained 'in some of the monuments, as well aa in 
the paintings, as may be seen on the principal tablet dis- 
covered by Mr. Stephens, at Palenque, on the back wall 
of altar, Casa No. 2. (p. 3i5). 

Several examples of vases, terra cottas, and other fictile 
products have been presented in the foregoing pages. In 
respect of execution, the ancient pottery of Nicaragua quite 
equals the best specimens found in Mexico or Peru. It is 
always well-burned, and often elaborately painted in brilliant 
and durable colors. The forms are generally very regular, 
but there is no evidence of the use of the potter's wheel : on 
the contrary, there is reason to believe that the ancient pro- 
cesses have undergone little or no modification Snce the 
VOL. n. 43 


Conquest. The pottery generally in use amongst all closaea 
in Central America, is of Indian inanuiiicture, and is fiisbioned 
entirely by hand. 

Several terra cottaa and small vessels of jjottery are figured 
in the accompanying plate, Figures 1, 2, 3, i, and 5 
are from Costa Hica, where they were found in the ancient 
graves. Figure 1 is very symmetrical ; each leg is hollow, and 
has in it a little ball, which rattles whenever the vase is 
moved. Figure 2 is not perfect; it originally supported 
some object upon its right shoulder. The head is represented 
covered with what resembles a close-fitting Highland cap. 
Figure 3 is a plain vessel, symmetrical in .ihapc, but without 
ornament. Figure i is most artistical. Tlie top is artfully 
fashioned in the shape of a tortoise. Figure 5 seems to 
have been designed only as a rattle. Figure 6 was obtained 
from the island of Ometepec, and represents an alligator upon 
the back of a human figure. It originally siirmoiiated a 
large vase. The arms have been broken olf, but their places 
are shown in the sketch. 

*"0«llirilAl RELICS. 


Figs. 7 and 8 arc drawings of atone hatchets or adzes. The 
first is composed of a variety of green quartz, and is alike 
symmetrical in shape, and elaborate in workmanship. It is 
highly polished upon the surface represented in the drawing; 
but the reverse has marks which show that it has been sawn 
from a block of the same material. Where the notches oc- . 
cur in the sides, ia a hole drilled entirely through the sUine, 
parallel to its face. The lower or cutting edge is slightly 
curved; implying that, if used for cutting purposes, it was as 
an adze. Altogether it exhibits far more skill in its work- ^ 
manship than any similar relic which has fallen under my 
notice. It was found in an ancient grave, in Costa Kica, 
where others of similar material, but larger size and ruder 
form, are of frequent occurrence. Fig. 8 is of syenite, and in 
shape indistinguishable from the stone axes of the Indiana, 
which are so abundant throughout Mexico and the United 
States, and which have their exact counterparts amongst the 
ancient relics discovered in the British Islands, and in the 
north of Europe. It was dug up near Granada in Nicara- 
gua, during my stay in that city. Similar relics are numer- 
ous in that country, varying in size from three and four 
inches to a foot in length. Examples of relics of this kind 
might be greatly multiplied; but what have already been 
presented will be amply sufficient to give an accurate idea of 
their general characters, if not of their specific par[K)ses. 




The Indians of Nicaragua were divided into numerous 
distinct tribes and petty sovereignties, governed by indepen- 
dent chiefs or caziques. These, it is presumed, were heredi- 
tary ; but whether the descent was by the female side, as in 
many other parts of America, or by the male, we are not 
informed. Tliis condition of things must have resulted in 
collisions between the several caziques, and, by war, intrigue, 
and alliances, in the aggrandisement of one at the expense 
of the other. Such was the fact ; and by these means, some 
of the chiefs became very powerful, and had as tributaries 
and vassals, chiefs who were themselves proprietors of villages 
and districts of land. These were the personal attendants 
and body-guards of the greater chiefs, "their captains and 

We are, however, told that some of the districts and their 
inhabitants, were not governed by caziques, but by councils 
of old men called OiuKjwts^ in whom were vested the supreme 
administrative and executive powers. They were elective ; 
and in them was vested the appointment of a military leader, 
or "war-chief," as he was called amongst the northern 
nations, who, by virtue of his oiBce, was a member of the 

^ This I take to be a Mexican word, formed by the reduplication of huA 
or gne old, huehue, or guegue, literally old-old, i. e., very old, Hwhtt^- 
tlalapan, the Very-old-tlalapan, and Gucguetenango, Very-old-teiiango, are 
names of places both in Mexico and Guatemala. 


ooTincil. He was, nevertheless, jealously watched, and if 
suspected of plotting against the safety of the commonwealth, 
or for the purpose of securing supreme power in his own 
hands, was rigorously put to death by the council of Guegues. 
These councils were early abolished by the Spaniards, " who 
found it easier to control one man than a number," each one 
of whom had equal influence amongst the people. The 
Guegues were also the chroniclers of their respective tribes, 
and made books, in which they recorded their boundaries, 
and the limits of property, " with all the rivers, lakes, and 
forests, to which reference was made in case of dispute 
amongst their own people, or with the other tribes." 

The custom of icUooing ^ii seems, was practiced to a certain 
extent, at least so far as to designate, by peculiarities in 
the marks, the several tribes or caziques to which the people 
belonged. "For," says Oviedo, "both sexes pierce their 
ears and make drawings on their bodies with stone knives, 
which are made black and permanent, by a kind of coal 
called Hie:' 

The local administrations diflFered very much, according 
to the temper of the cazique. There nevertheless were many 
well-established rules by which he was governed, that were 
seldom or never violated. The nature of some of these will 
be discovered as we proceed. The subordinate officers of 
the caziques were distinguished by certain insignia, which 
never failed to receive the respect with which similar evi- 
dences of authority are regarded in civilized countries. 

It appears that the chie&, although absolute in their 
powers, nevertheless took care to call around them the best 
informed and most respected portion of their subjects, as 
advisers. Thus, whenever a military expedition or other 
enterprise was meditated, the chie^ who was called teiUj con- 
vened a MoTiexica or council, which appointed persons to 
assess the cost, so that it should fall equally upon the com- 
munity. The councillors of the cazique were named for four 


montlis, at the end of which time they went back amongst 
the people. They were always chosen from the old men. 
One of the first duties of the council was the appointment of 
subordinate executive officers, to act during the four months 
for which they were chosen, two of which were always 
present at the markets, to preserve the peace, and punish 
those who used false measures, or practised frauds of any 
kind, as also those who disobeyed orders, or violated received 
usages. It was also their duty to pay particular attention to 
strangers, and encourage them to frequent the markets or 

The council houses were called grepons, surrounded by 
broad corridors called galpons, beneath which the arms were 
kept, protected by a guard of young men. The decision of 
the Motiexica or council might be against the cazique, and his 
judgment be overruled ; but he could dissolve it, nor could it 
be again convened except by his orders. The war-chief was 
elected by the warriors to lead them, on account of his abiUty 
and bravery in battle, and had undivided command of the 
forces ; but the civil, or hereditary chie^ often accompanied 
the army, and in case the war-chief was slain, either took his 
place in person or named a succ^essor on the spot. The spoil 
of battle was not divided equally amongst the warriors; but 
each one kept all he got. It was not usual to punish coward- 
ice with death ; but cowards were despoiled of their arms and 
driven out of the ranks in disgrace. Prisoners were much de- 
sired for sacrifices, and consequently the warriors sought 
rather to capture than slay their enemies. Those who ac- 
quitted themselves well in battle, or who had triumphed in 
a hand-to-hand conflict with an enemy, took the title of Ta- 
jxiliquij and as a mark of distinction were permitted to shave 
the entire head, leaving only a scalp-lock, or tuft, on the 
crown. This was required to be precisely half a finger in 
length, with a tuft in the centre, a little longer. The same 
practice also prevailed in Mexico. 


Marriage amongst the Nicaraguan nations was a civil rite, 
performed by the cazique, and the ceremonies were much the 
same as those practiced amongst the Mexicans. The matches 
were arranged by the parents of the parties; and as soon as 
the bargain was concluded, two fowls and a rula (a kind 
of house-dog) were killed, some cacao prepared, and the 
friends and neighbors invited to the feast. This finished, the 
cazique led the couple into a small house, devoted to that 
purpose, in which a fire of resin was kindled, where, after 
giving them a lecture, he left them to themselves. When 
the fire was burned out, the rite was complete. If it proved 
that the woman was not a virgin, she was sent back to her 
parents, and permanently disgraced, while the man was at 
Uberty to marry again. The couple, ailer marriage, received 
from their parents, a piece of land, and certain fruit trees, 
which, if they died childless, reverted to their respective fam- 
ilies. But one wife was permitted to any man except the 
cazique, although concubinage was practised by those who 
could afford it. Bigamy was punished by exile, and by con- 
fiscation of property for the benefit of the first wife or hus- 
band, who was then at liberty to marry again. This privi- 
lege was not however extended to women having children. 
Adultery on the part of the wife, subjected her to severe 
flogging, and to be sent back to her family; but she still re- 
tained her effects. It liberated the husband from his marital 
obligations; the woman, however, could not marry again. 
Relationship, beyond the first degree, was no bar to marriage. 
Marriages within families, on the contrary, were encouraged 
as "tightening the bonds of relationship." Incest was un- 
known ; but the man who debauched the daughter of his 
master or cazique, was buried alive, with the partner of his 
guilt. The man who committed rape was seized, confined, 
and unless he could make reparation, by large presents, to the 
injured woman or her parents, became her or their slave. 
Sodomites were stoned to death. Prostitutes were tolerated, 


and the price of their favors limited at ten amands of cacao. 
They were accompanied by bullies {rufianos), who, however, 
did not share their gains. Establishments, or houses of pros- 
titution, were kept publicly. On the occasion of a certain an- 
nual festival, it was permitted that all the women, of what- 
ever condition, might abandon themselves to the arms of 
whoever they pleased. Eigid fidelity, however, was exacted, 
at all other times. 

Parents might traffic with the persons of their daughters, 
without subjecting themselves to punishment. Prostitution 
was sometimes resorted to by girls, whose parents were un- 
able to provide for them a proper marriage portion. When 
one of these, having by this means, secured a competence, 
desired to withdraw from that mode of life, she procured a 
piece of ground whereon to build a house, and collecting her 
lovers, announced to them, that those desirous of having her 
for a wife, must unite and build a house, after the plan which 
she should furnish, and that when completed, she would se- 
lect her husband from amongst them. The house being built 
and stocked, a feast was prepared, at the close of which the 
girl took the man of her choice by the arm and led him away, 
exulting to be preferred over his rivals. The rejected ones, 
says the chronicler, " generally take it patiently, but occa- 
sionally one suspends himself from a tree, in order that the 
devil may have his part in the wedding, and is eaten for his 

Oviedo states that the men built the houses, cultivated 
the ground, himted, and fished, while the women did the 
trading. K true, this was an exception to the common prac- 
tice of the Indian nations, which devolved all the drudgery 
upon the females. "The husband," he says, before leaving 
the house, " must sweep it, and kindle a fire"— duties which 
now, most certainly, fall upon the females. 

In respect to their physique, they were well made, and of 
&irer complexion than the average ; and then, as now, fre- 


qnently shaved the head, leaving only a circle of hair ex- 
tending along the edge of the forehead, from ear to ear. They 
all had a custom of cleaving the under part of the tongue, 
and of piercing their ears for the introduction of ornaments. 

Like the Peruvians, the Natchez, and many other abori- 
ginal nations, they flattened their heads, " When our chil- 
dren are young," said the chiefs to the Friar Bobadilla, " their 
heads are tender, and are then moulded into the shape which 
you see in us, by means of two pieces of wood, hollowed in 
the middle. Our gods instructed our ancestors that, by so 
doing, we should have a noble air, and the head be better 
fitted to bear burthens." 

Murder under aggravated circumstances, was punished with 
death ; but in all cases of homicide the perpetrator gave to 
the next relatives of the victim a male or female slave, 
clothes and other articles. Robbers had their hair cut ofl^ 
and were the slaves of the injured party until complete resti- 
tution was efiected. 

A father might sell his own children or himself as slaves, 
in cases of great necessity, with the privilege of redemption. 
Payment of debts was rigidly required ; if a man had bor- 
rowed maize or fruits, the creditor might repay himself from 
his debtor's fields. 

Any man might expatriate himself, but he could not di- 
minish the public wealth by taking any of his property with 
him ; he might, however, give it to his relatives. 

Their dwellings seem to have been rude structures of canes, 
thatched with grass, identical with those now used by the 
poorer inhabitants. The residences of the chiefs were of the 
same construction, but larger and more commodious. In all 
of the towns were one or more public squares, or market- 
places, around which the temples and public edifices seem to 
have been built. All of these buildings, the chronicler adds, 
were surrounded by fi-uit trees, planted so thickly and in 
such a manner that the square could hardly be entered. 

VOL. n. 44 


The caziques affected great state, and carried their exdn* 
sion so far as to receive messages from other chie& only 
through ofl&cers delegated for that purpose. Oviedo illustrates 
their etiquette by an incident which befel himself when he 
visited the chief of Tecoatega, which he did soon after his 
arrival in the country, in company with the chaplain of the 
governor. The chief, he says, neither spoke to him, nor 
deigned to look at him, until informed that he was not only 
attached to the household of the emperor, but was a relative of 
the governor. The chief then laid aside his gravity, and 
asked and answered questions with much spirit, " showing 
clearly that he was a man of talent." He nevertheless sent 
one of his attendants to question the servants of the party, 
to ascertain if what they had told him was true. 

Cacao, or rather the seeds of the cacao, here, as in many 
other parts of tropical America, answered the chief purpose of 
currency, when the transaction between buyer and seller was 
not simple barter. There were fixed market days ; but, by a 
singular rule, the privilege of trading was confined to the 
women, and to boys not yet arrived at puberty. No man was 
allowed to enter, or even to look into the tianguez, or market. 
The people of friendly villages might traffic with each other, 
and were freely admitted into each other's markets. All 
articles of production, metals, woods, fruits, and vegetables, 
as well as all varieties of manufactures, were exposed for 
sale in the tianguez. 

They were very industrious in their habits, and skillful 
workers in gold and copper, and in cotton and other fabrics 
of the pita, or agave. They cultivated cotton extensively, 
and worked it curiously, probably in the very manner still 
practised, and which is described in a preceding chapter. 
Of this their clothing was made. "The men wore a sort of 
doublet without sleeves, and a belt, which, afl;er passing 
around the body, was carried between the legs, and fastened 
behind. The women had a nagiia, hanging from the girdle 


as low as the knees. Those of the better orders had them fall- 
ing as low as the ankle, and also wore a handkerchief cover- 
ing their breasts. Both sexes wore sandals made of deer 
skins, and called ctUares, which were fastened by a cotton 
cord, passing between the toes and around the heel. 

Their personal ornaments were chiefly of gold and pearls. 
The people of Nicoya, which Oviedo expressly tells us were 
Chorotegans, pierced their lower lips, and introduced " round 
pieces of white bone," and sometimes " a button of gold." 
The women of this section the chronicler specially commends, 
on account of their symmetry of figure and beauty of fea- 

Their arms were identical with those used by the Mexi- 
cans, and consisted of lances and arrows pointed with flint, 
copper, or the bones of fishes, and a species of sword called 
in Mexico mahquahuitlj which was a tough piece of wood, 
with blades of obsidian set on either edge, and wielded with 
both hands, constituting a formidable weapon. For defence 
they used shields of wood, covered with hide, and orna- 
mented with feathers, which by their color and figures which 
they formed, signified the rank and position of the bearer.. 

They had also quilted jackets and short 
breeches covering the thighs, made of cotton, 
which an arrow penetrated with difficulty, 
and which the Spaniards found to be so 
effbctive for defence that they adopted them 
for themselves. The accompanying cut of 
a soldier's dress is copied from a Mexican 
manuscript. The letter a indicates the 
feather head-dress ; c, a plate of metal cov- 
ering part of the fiice, and d, the cotton- 
quilted armor. They did not poison their 
weapons. Gold seems to have been used 
only for ornamental purposes, and for making little idols, to 
be worshipped in their houses and temples. They had 


amongst them certain manuscripts, which the Spaniards called 
books, and which seem to have been identical with those 
possessed by the Mexicans. They were painted " in black 
and red colors, on parchment made from the skins of deer, 
and were a hand's breadth or upwards in width, and ten or 
twelve yards long, and folded like a screen. " Though these 
characters," continues Oviedo, " were neither letters nor fig- 
ures, they were not without their meaning." 


We are assiired by Oviedo that while they differed widely 
in their habits and modes of life, the inhabitants of Nicaragua 
nevertheless agreed substantially in their religion. This 
appears to have been the same, or very nearly the same 
with that of Mexico ; and amongst the Niquirans the names 
of the gods, as well as the rites with which they were wor- 
shipped, including the practice of human sacrifices, were 
identical with those of the Aztecs and their neighbors in the 
valley of Anahuac. The nature of their beliefs, as also the 
prescriptions of their ritual, appear very clearly from the 
records preserved by Oviedo. Among these is a transcript 
of the proceedings of a commission, of which the Fray Fran- 
cisco dc Bobadilla, Provincial of the Order of Mercy, was 
the head, delegated by Pedro Arias de AWla, Governor of 
Nicaragua, in 1528, to procure an exact account of the con- 
dition of the Indians, to ascertain the nature of their religion, 
and to discover how far they had been affected by the intro- 
duction of Christianity. It was on the 28th of September of 
the same year that Bobadilla arrived in the province of Ni- 
quira, and commenced his investigation. The first who 
appeared before him was a chief named Chichoyatona, whom 
Bobadilla piously proceeded to baptize, naming him Alonzo 
de Herrera. He then inquired of him if he knew there was 


a God who had created man, the world, and all things. But 
Chichoyatona either did not know, or else did not care to 
answer questions, and the friar got nothing from him. He 
next tried an old man named Cipat, but he replied to the 
same question that he neither knew nor cared, and was ac- 
cordingly dismissed. It is not, however, to be supposed that 
Cipat was really so ignorant ; for the Indians of Nicaragua, 
in common with those of every part of the continent, were 
extremely jealous of all things relating to their religion. 
Bobadilla, no wise discouraged, tried another chief, named 
Mizeztoy, and this time with better success. Mizeztoy stated 
that he was a Christian ; that is to say, had had water poured 
on his head by a priest, but had really quite forgot what 
name had been given to him. The result of his examination 
is given by the chronicler as follows : 

JFViar, Do you know who made heaven and earth ? Indian, My pa- 
rents told me, when I was a child, that it was Fhmagostad and ZipaUonal^ 
the first male and the second female. — F. What are they, men or animals? 
Z I do not know ; my parents never saw them ; nor do I know whether 
they dwell in the air or elsewhere. — F. Who created man, and all tilings ? 
Z As I have already said, Famagosiad and ZipaMonal, a younger named 
Ecalchoty a Onegue (or very old personage), and the little CHagat — F. 
Where are they ? Z I do not know, except that they are our great gods, 
whom we call Thotes. — F. Have they parents or ancestors ? Z No ; for 
they are gods. — F, Do the Teotes eat? Z I do not know ; but when 
we make war, we do so that they may eat the blood of our enemies 
whom we have slain or taken prisoners. We scatter the blood on all 
sides, in order that the Thotes may make sure of it ; for we know not on 
which side they dwell, nor even that they do really consume it — F. Do 
you know, or have you even heard, that the world has been destroyed 
since the creation? Z I have heard our fathers say that it was des- 
stroyed by water, a very long time ago. — F. Were all men drowned ? 
Z I do not know ; but the Teotes rebuilt the world, and placed upon it 
men and animals again. — F. How did the Tholes escape ? upon a moun- 
tain or in a canoe ? Z They are gods, how could they droumf — F. Were all 
animals and the birds drowned ? Z Those now existing were created anew 
by the IkoteSj as well as men and all things. — F. Are all the Indians ao- 


qaainted with what you have just told me ? L The priests of the temples 
and the caziques know it — F. By whom are the T}toiti served ? L The 
old men say that those who are slain in battle serve the TeoteSj and that 
those wlio die in the natural way, go under the earth. — F. Which is most 
honorable, to go under the earth, or to serve the 2h>tes7 I. By far to 
serve the the Tfeote*, because we shall then meet with our lathers. — F, 
But if ytjur fathers have died in their beds, how can you meet them ? 
L Our fathers are themselves Ihoies, — F. Can the Teoiea bring the dead 
lo life, and if so, where are the reawakened dead ? Z All that I know 
is, that infants who die before they are weaned, and before they have 
tasted maize, will be raised again, and return to their lathers' houses, 
where their fathers will recognize and provide for them ; whilst, on the 
other hand, those who die at a more advanced age will never come to life 
again. — F. But if the father should die before his children come to life 
again, how can he recognize or provide for them? 7. If the fathers die, 
I know not what becomes of the children. — F. Finally what is their de- 
stiny t I. 1 know only what I have told you; and it must be true, be- 
c 111 so our fathers have told us so." 

The Fray Bobadilla next questioned the cazique Abalgoal- 
teogan, who also bore the name of Francisco, and who said 
he was a Christian. The Fray asked him, " if he was glad 
that he was a Christian ?" to which he replied that, " he 
thought he was," and gave as a reason for his felicitation that 
only Christians went to heaven, while "all others went to 
hell with the devil." Being a more hopeful subject than the 
rest, the Fray proceeded to interrogate him. His testimony, 
as to the gods, coincided with that of Mizeztoy, and with 
him he affirmed that all knowledge concerning them was 
perpetuated by oral tradition ; that formerly the priests had 
converse with the gods, but that since the arrival of the Chris- 
tians, the latter had withdrawn from earth ; that although 
the leotes are of flesh, and male and female, yet that they are 
uncreated, immortal, enjoy eternal youth, and reside in the 
heavens. That the earth was once destroyed by water, and 
became a great sea, and that afterwards Faniagostad and 
Zipaltotial descended, dispersed the waters, and recreated all 
things. That of the dead, the good alone go above with 


the Teotes, the bad to a subterranean abode named Aftquetan- 
teot; that there is no resurrection of the body, but by the act 
of death "there comes forth from the mouth something 
which resembles the person, called julio^ which goes to the 
place of the Teotes, It is immortal : but the body decays for- 
ever." The good are those " who take care of the temples, 
and observe the laws of friendship ; the wicked are those 
who do differently, and they are sent under the earth." 

The Fray next interrogated an old man, past sixty years 
of age, named Tacoteyda, who was a priest in one of the 
temples of Nicaragua. When he was asked if he was a 
Christian, he said No, that he was old, and why should he 
become a Christian ? Whereupon the Fray told him, that if 
he became a Christian, it would be a source of great good to 
him here and hereafter; but that if he did not, he would 
inevitably go to the devil. But the old priest was firm in his 
own faith, and would not be baptized. He concurred entirely 
with the others, in representing Famagostad and ZvpaUonal as 
themselves uncreated, the creators of heaven and earth, and 
the greatest of gods. He added, that they were like the In- 
dians themselves, forever young, dwelt in the heavens towards 
the rising of the sun, and that their aid in war, or for other 
purposes, previously to the arrival of the Christians, was pro- 
cured by addressing petitions to heaven. 

Tacoteyda testified that Famagostad and ZipaUonal received 
to themselves, at their abiding place in the eastern heavens, 
those who had lived worthily, or had been slain in battle, 
but that all others were sent under the earth ; that those who 
went above did not carry their bodies with them, but only 
a hearty or rather that which was the cause of life, and which 
in departing from the body caused death. The Fray asked 
him what the gods would do when all men ceased to live. To 
which the Indian priest replied, very frankly, that he did not 
know; nor did he know anything of a flood which had 
destroyed the world. Altogether, his examination does not 


appear to have been satisfiictory to the Fray BobadOla, who 
dismissed him, and sent for an Indian named Coyen, who 
was very aged, exceeding eighty years, and whose head was 
1 white as cotton wool. lie said he was a Christian, or rather 
that water had been poured on his head, and he had had a 
new name given him, which, however, he had forgotten. 
His testimony, in respect to the gods, confirmed what had 
been said by the others ; they were immortal — resembled the 
Indians — were ever young — dwelt on high — ^anciently com- 
municated with the priests in the temples, but did so no 
longer, and loved the blood and hearts of children, and the 
' perfume of resins. lie had heard, from his ancestors, that 
the world had been destroyed by water in remote times, 
and that none were saved, but that the gods had created the 
world anew. The good went on high with the Teotes, the 
bad below the earth. The body putrefied in the ground, but 
the principle of life, which dwelt in the heart, and which was 
immortal, went above. 

Upon the 30th of the same month, the Fray resumed his 
inquiries, and called up the chief of Xaxoita, whose name was 
Quibiat, a comparatively young man, who was not a Chris- 
tian, but desired to become one, whereat Bobadilla was so 
delighted, that he not only baptized him, but gave him his 
own name. The Fray undoubtedly thought he had found a 
profitable subject, but Quibiat answered every question with 
" I do not know !" So he was sent ofij and an Indian named 
Atochinal called in, who, although but a sorry Christian, 
nevertheless answered all the questions put to him, in pre- 
cisely the same way with those who had been previously 
examined, except that he did not know whether the world 
was destroyed by fire or water, only that his fathers said that 
it had been destroyed. 

The Fray afterwards collected thirteen Indians, priests, 
caziques, and others, and made various inquiries of them, 
which, with their answers, are given below. It should be 


remembered, however, that the Fray was now amongst the 
Niquirans, or people of Mexican stock. The Fray first asked 
them if they were the original inhabitants of the country; to 
which they answered, that although their ancestors had been 
here from time immemorial, they were not the true abori- 
gines, but came originally from a distant country called Tico- 
mega JEmaguatega^ which was situated towards the west, i. e. 
N. W. They quitted because they had masters who ill 
treated them. 

" Friar. Were these masters Indians or Giristians ? Indian. Indians. — 
K What was the service which was required of your fathers ? I, They 
tilled the ground, and served their masters as we now serve the Christians. 
Their masters overtasked, abused, and even ate them. It was fear which 
induced them to emigrate. Their masters came from another country, 
and by numbers and force overcame them. — F. What is your religion ? 
Whom do you worship ? I. We adore Famagostad and ZipcdUmal, who 
are our gods, — F. Who sends you rain and all other things ? 1. The rain 
is sent by QuiaUot^ son of the god Home-Atelite and the goddess Home- 
Ateciguat. They dwell at the extremity of the world, where the sun goes. 
— F. Have they ever lived on earth ? I. No. — F. From whence do thiy 
come. I. We know not — F. Who made the heavens and earth, and all 
things else ? I. Famagogtad and Zipcdtoncd. — F. Did they make the father 
and mother of Quiateot ? /. No ; what relates to water is an entirely 
different thing, but we know very little of the matter. — F. Has Quiateot 
a wife? I. No. — F. Who serve him? I. We think he ought to have 
servants, but we know not who they are. — F. What does he eat ? /. 
What we do ; for our food has come from the gods. — F. Which do you 
regard as the most powerful, the father, mother, or son ? /. They are 
equal to one another. — F. When do you ask for rain, and what do you 
do to obtain it? /. We go to the temple dedicated to him, and sacrifice 
some young children. AHer having cut off their heads, we sprinkle the 
blood on the images and stone idols in the house of prayer consecrated 
to our gods, and which, in our language, is called Thobat. — F. What do 
you do with the bodies of the sacrificed ? I. Those of the children we 
bury ; those of the men are eaten by the caziques and chiefs, but not by 
the rest of the people. — F. When this is done, does the god send you rain ? 
/. Sometimes he does, but sometimes not — F, Why do you go to the 
temples, and what do you say and do there ? /. The temples are to ns 

VOL. IL 46 


what the churches are to Christians; there are our gods, and there we 
bum perfumes in their honor ; we ask of them health if we are sick ; rain 
if it is needed, for we are poor, and if the earth should be parched we can 
have no fruits ; — in short, we ask of them all things of which we stand in 
need. The principal cazique enters the temple and prays in the name of 
all; the rest of the Indians do not enter. The cazique remains there for 
prayer an entire year, and during that time never leaves the temple. 
When he comes forth a great festival is celebrated in his honor, with 
dancing and feasting. His nostrils arc then pierced, to show that he has 
been pontiff of the temple, which is esteemed to be the greatest of honorsL 
Another chief is then sought to take hLs place, so that there may always 
be one in the temple. As to those temples, which are only a kind of ora- 
torio, any one can place in them one of his children ; and any one who 
desires may enter, provided he is unmarried, and on condition of not 
having had connection with any woman for an entire year; that 
is to say, until the caziques and priests who are in the temple shall 
have come out — F. Are married persons who are willing to quit 
their wives and go into the temples, suffered to do so? Z Yea, 
But at the expiration of the year they must return to their wives, 
and if caziques, resume their government. — F. How are they provided 
with food ? /. It is brought to them by children from the house of the 
priests, and during all the time they are in the temple no one can enter it 
beyond the vestibule, except those young persons who carry provisions. — 
F. While in the temple do they converse with the gods ? / For a long 
time our gods have not visited or conversed with us. If our ancestors 
may be believed, they were once in the habit of doing so. All that we 
know is, that the person charged witli praying to the gods, asks of them 
all things needful. — F. In time of war, do they come forth from the tem- 
ple ? 7. No. The vestibule of the temple is very convenient for meet- 
ing. — F. WTio clean and sweep the temples ? /. Young boys only ; mar- 
ried or old men take no part in the matter. — F. Have you, during the 
year, any prescribed days of general attendance at the temple ? / We 
have twenty-one festival days for amusement, drinking and dancing 
around the court, but no one is permitted to enter the temple. — F. Do 
the women take any part in collecting the straw, bringing wood, or any- 
thinpr else which may be of use either in building or repairing the temple? 
I. The women can take no part in anything which concerns the temple, 
and are never admitted within it — F. Since you sometimes sacrifice 
women, do you not violate the law which forbids them from entering the 
temple? I. When women are sacrificed in the temples or principal 
houses of prayer, they are first put to death in the court; but it is allow- 


able to introduce them into the ordinary temples — F. What do you do 
with the blood of those who are sacrificed in the courts of the principal 
temples? 7. It is brought into the temple, and the priest sprinkles it on 
the idols with his hands. — F. What do you do with the body ? Z It is 
eaten ; except the bodies of females, which are not touched. When the 
victim is a man, the priest has his share. — F, Are those who are sacrificed 
voluntary victims ? are they selected by lot? or is it a punishment inflicted 
upon them ? I. They are slaves, or prisoners of war. — F. As you esteem 
jour gods so much, how can you sacrifice persons of infamous condition 
to them ? I. Our ancestors did so, and we do likewise. — F, Do you make 
any other offerings in your temples ? I. Every one brings such offerings 
as he pleases, sucb as fowls, maize, fish, fruits, etc They are carried to 
the temple by the young people. — F Who eats these offerings? /. The 
priests of the temple; and if any remains, it is eaten by the boys. — 
F. Are the provisions cooked before being carried to the temple ? 7. Al- 
ways. — F. Does any one taste of these offerings before the priest? I. No 
one presumes to touch or taste of them before him ; for this is considered 
one of the most important regulations of the temple. — F, Why do you 
make a self-sacrifice by cutting the tongue ? I. We always do this before 
we purchase, sell, or conclude a bargain, because we believe it will bring 
us a fortunate result. The god we invoke on such occasions is named 
Mioccoa. — F. Who is your god Aftxcoaf I. Carved stones, which we in- 
voke in his honor. — F How do you know this god will aid your bar- 
gains? / Because when we invoke him, we make good bargains. — 
F. Has Nicaragua ever been visited by any other nation than the Span- 
iards, who might have taught you all these ceremonies, ordered you to 
pour water on your heads, or to cut off the foreskin ? and did you know 
that the Christians were on the eve of coming to your country ? /. We 
know nothing of all this ; but since you have come among us, you have 
told us it was good to pour water on the head, and to be baptized. — 
F, What is it that is cleansed by pouring water on the head? / The 
heart — F. How do you know that the heart is cleansed ? 7. We only 
know that it purifies us ; it is the duty of your priests to explain how. — 
F. At your death how do you dispose of your property, and what 
precautions do you take for another life ? I. When we die, we recom- 
mend our children and property to our survivors, that they may not 
perish, but be taken care of after we are dead. He who lives a good life, 
after death goes on high among the Thotes ; if a bad one, below the 
earth. — F. Who are your gods? 7 Famogostad and Zipaltoncd ; and 
when we go to them they say, "here come our children!" — F. Why do 
you break the idols upon your tombs ? 7 In order that they may think 


of us for twenty or thirty days; afler that they forget us. — F, Why, at 
the death of any one of you, do you paint yourselves with red paints^ 
decorate yourselves with plumes, singing, playing on instruments, and 
celebrating festivals? /. We do nothing of the kind. When our children 
die, we envelop them in cotton cloth, and bury them before our doora 
We leave all our property to our children, who are our heirs, if legitimate ; 
that is to say, the children of a husband and wife, and bom in the house ; 
but they are not our heirs, if born of other women, or out of the house ; 
for those only are legitimate, who are born in the house. If we die with- 
out children, all we possess is buried with us. — F, What are your funeral 
ceremonies ? L Upon the death of a chief or cazique, a large quantity of 
cotton cloth, shirts, cloaks, plumes, hunting horns, and all sorts of articles 
belonging to the dead, a portion of each kind, is burned with the body, 
together with all the gold he possessed. Afterwards all the ashes are 
gathered together, placed in an earthen vase, and buried before the house 
of the deceased. — F. Why do you not bury them in your temples ? Z 
Because it is not customary. — F. Do you place provisions in the vase? 
I. At the time of burning, a little maize is placed in a calabash, by the side 
of the dead body, and burned with it — F. The heart, jvHio^ or soul, does 
it die with the body ? / If the deceased has lived well, theyu/u? goes on 
high with the gods; if not, it perishes with the body and is no more. — F. 
Do the Indians see anything at the moment of dying? 7. They have 
visions of persons, lizards, serpents, and many things which fill them with 
fear. They know thereby that they must die. The objects which they 
see do not speak, but strive to frighten them. Sometimes the dead return 
to this world, and appear to the living for the same object — F, Do not 
the crosses placed above the dead, by the Christians, protect them ? L 
Much ; for since this practice of the Christians was introduced, we have 
no more visions. — F, Who taught you to give your idols the form which 
they have ? 7. Our fathers left us idols of stone, and from them, as models, 
have we made those in our houses. — F. Why do you have them in your 
houses ? I. That we may easily invoke them when necessary. — F. Do 
you sacrifice to the idols in your houses? L No. 

^^ Friar. Before your temples stand earthen huts of a circular form, and 
terminating in a point ; they resemble a sheaf of grain in appearance ; the 
summit is reached by a stairway through the middle of the hut: what is 
the name of these huts, and what is their use ? Indian, Their name is 
Ikzarii; the priest of the temple, whose name is Ibmagoz, ascends to the 
summit of the hut^ and there makes the sacrifices of the victims, sprinkling 
their blood on the stone idols." 


The Pray Bobabilla afterwards continued his inquiries in 
respect to other matters, with what results will be seen else- 
where. He ascertained that the god of hunger was called 
Vizetot^ and the god of the air Chiquinau or Hecact, which last 
was probably intended for Eltecatl, the Mexican name for air 
or wind. He also ascertained the names of the days of their 
months, which entirely coincided with those of Mexico, as 
also many interesting facts connected with their religious 
ceremonies. They affirmed that they had twenty-one princi- 
pal festivals each year, on which occasions no work was done, 
but the entire people surrendered themselves to rejoicing, 
and the observance of the rites prescribed for these occasions. 
During these periods they abstained from all connection with 
their wives ; the females sleeping within the houses, and the 
males without. This abstinence was deemed most essential, 
and any infraction, it was supposed, would be summarily 
punished by the gods. It does not appear that fitting was 
enjoined on any occasion. The Spaniards were very much 
surprised, both here and in Mexico, at finding a well-estab- 
lished rite, corresponding entirely with that of confession, as 
it existed in the Catholic Church. The confession was not, 
however, made to the priests, but to certain old men, who 
always maintained the strictest reserve, in respect to what 
was communicated to them. The penances were imposed for 
the benefit of the temple. These old men were chosen by 
the council, and wore a calabash suspended from their necks, 
as a mark of dignity. It was requisite that they should be 
unmarried, and distinguished for their virtues. Neglect of 
religious ceremonies and blasphemy of the gods, were re- 
garded as offences requiring early confeasion and absolution, 
lest they should entail sickness or death on the offender. No 
person was required to confess himself, however, until after 
he had attained the age of puberty. 

They seem to have had a great variety of superstitious 
notions, corresponding generally with those prevailing 


amongst the other Indian nations, both to the northward and 
southward. Amongst these was the practice of throwing 
sticks or grass upon certain stones at the road side, in pass- 
ing ; by which they thought they would be less subjected to 
hunger and fatigue. They had also a superstition something 
like that of the " evil eye," amongst the Arabs and some 
other Oriental nations. They supposed that there were per- 
sons whose looks were mortal, and whose eyes were fatal to 
children. They had, also a great fear of sorcerers, whom 
they called texoxes, 

Oviedo has not described the temples to which he so fire- 
quently refers, but Cerezeda informs us that they were built 
of timber, and thatched ; but large, with many low, dark, in- 
ner chapels. These, it seems, were surrounded by large 
courts, beyond which none except the priests and the cazique 
during his year's novitiate, dared to pass. Besides these, 
there w^ere what the Indians called Tezaritj oratorios, or 
" high places," which stood before or around the temples, 
and which Oviedo describes as being conical or pyramidal in 
shape, ascended by steps. Upon these the human victims 
were sacrificed. ** Within view of their temples," says Cere- 
zeda, who is more explicit, " there were divers bases or pil- 
lars like pulpits, erected in the fields, of unburned brick, 
and a certain kind of clammy earth, called bitumen, which 
are from eight to fifteen steps in height. The summit is flat, 
and varies in size, according to the purposes for which it is 
designed. Some are broad enough to hold ten men. In the 
middle of this space standeth a stone, higher than the rest, 
equalling a man's body in length ; and this accursed stone is 
the altar of their miserable sacrifices. Upon the ap{)ointed 
day of sacrifice, the king ascendeth another of these altars, 
whence he may view the ceremony, and the people gather 
about; when the priest, in full view of all, from this eminent 
place, performeth the office of preacher, and shaking a sharp 
knife of stone which he holds in his hand, proclaims that a 


sacrifice is to be made, as also whether it is to be a prisoner, 
or one who is a slave, or has been kept from infancy for this 
purpose. For every chief maintains certain persons for sacri- 
fice, who are fed daintily, and so far from being sad and 
sorrowful, in anticipation of their fate, arc persuaded that, by 
this kind of death, they shall be turned into gods and hea- 
venly creatures. They are reverently received wherever 
they go, and whatever they ask is given to them. Those to 
be sacrificed are stretched out flat on the stone whereof I 
have spoken, and the priest, cutting open the breast, plucks 
out the heart, wherewith he anoints the mouths of the idols. 
The body is then cut in pieces, and distributed amongst the 
priests, nobility, and the people. But the head is hung, as a 
trophy, upon the branches of certain small trees, which are 
preserved for that purpose near the place of sacrifice. The 
parts which are distributed they partly bury before their 
doors, but the rest they burn, leaving the ashes in the field 
of sacrifice." 

According to Herrara, the high-places above described, 
stood within the courts of the temples. He also informs us, 
that the sacrifices were frequently attended by ceremonies, in 
which all the people joined, — by dances, penances, and pro- 
cessions. In these processions, the priests wore cotton sur- 
plices, sometimes short, and sometimes long, hanging to 
the ground and heavily fringed. They carried also little 
bags of powdered herbs. The people followed, each person 
bearing a little flag, " with the representation of the idol 
which he most venerated," and carrying also their weapons 
of war. " Their standard," quaintly observes the chronicler, 
** was the picture of the devil set on a spear, and carried by the 
eldest priest, the religious men singing the while, to the place 
of worship. The ground was then covered with carpets, and 
strewed with flowers. When the standard halted, the sing- 
ing ceased, and all commenced praying. At a signal from 
the chief priest, they punctured various parts of their bodies, 


and receiving the blood on paper, rubbed it on the face of 
the idol ; and, in the mean time, the youths skirmished and 
danced in honor of the festival. The wounds were cured 
with the powder and herbs carried by the priests." " The 
ceremonies ended," says Cerezeda, " the priests bow down 
the spear a little, at which time, the priests first, and then 
the nobles, and lastly the people, whisper the idol in the ear, 
and every one uttereth the tempestuous outrage of his mind, 
and bending the head to one shoulder, with reverent trem- 
bling and mumbling, they humbly beseech that, luckily and 
happily, he would favor their desires." 

There was another rite, practised at certain times, con- 
nected with a worship which prevailed to a greater extent 
in America than has generally been supposed, and which 
discovers to us the rationale of many remarkable obser\'ance8 
otherwise inexplicable. It consisted in sprinkling blood, 
drawn from the organs of generation, upon maize, which was 
afterwards distributed, and eaten with great solemnity. 
This scenical rite, under one form or another, may be traced 
through the rituals of all the semi-civilized nations of 
America, in strict parallelism with certain Phallic rites of 
the Hindus, and of those other numerous nations of the old 
world, which were devoted to a similar primitive religion. 

The Fray Bobadilla was piously indignant at the practices 
of the Indians, and longed to be able to prove to them how 
insignificant their Teotes were as compared with the God and 
his subordinates whom he worshipped. In this respect he 
was favored, for there were several manifestations from above 
in his behalf, hardly less extraordinary than those which be- 
fel the Spaniards in Mexico, where the Virgin and the arch- 
angel Michael visibly, and in person, assisted in the fights 
against the Indians. Thus, there had been no rain in Nica- 
ragua for a long time; but upon the Fray's arrival at the In- 
dian towns, it rained for five consecutive days, which he re- 
garded as a miracle, and straightway assured the Indians if 


they would become Christians, " it would rain whenever it 
was wanted, the seasons always be good, and that, besides, 
they would thereby save their souls." The Indians approved 
of the rain, and in order to secure it, allowed the Fray to 
collect "a large number of idols, heads of deer, and parcels 
stained with blood, in the public square, and give them to 
the flames." They even allowed him to convert their temple 
into a Christian church, which he did by sprinkling it with 
holy water, and setting up within it a cross and an image of 
the Virgin, which last he especially enjoined them to keep 
clean. According to the notary of Granada, quoted by Ovie- 
do, the Fray baptized not less than 43,000 Indians within the 
space of nine days; this was at the average rate of about 5,000 
a-day, and may be called a " fisdr business." But the miracle 
of the five days' steady rain was nothing compared with what 
happened to the Fray in the province of Matearas, where he 
found a child dying, to which he administered the rite of 
baptism, whereupon the babe ejaculated " cntz /" and died ! 
This so astonished the mother, that she requested to be bap- 
tized also, which was no sooner done, than she exclaimed 
that she saw her child ascending to heaven. The child had 
a magnificent funeral in consequence, and the Fray made the 
most of the miracle, inducing not less than ten thousand In- 
dians to be baptized on the strength of it. 

But the zeal of Bobadilla did not stop here; he burned " a 
vast number of idols, temples, and oratorios, erected crosses 
on their ruins, as also on the roads and elevations, and gave 
the Indians images of the Virgin and a quantity of holy wa- 
ter." But the chronicler did not put much faith in these 
conversions; for he says that he would agree to give a peso 
de or for every Indian able to tell his baptismal name, and 
repeat the Pater and Ave, and takeaTnararcdifor every one 
who could not, and make money by the operation. In his 
opinion these baptisms did no good, and were only valuable to 
swell reports to be sent to Spain. " Far better," he sensibly 

VOL. II. 46 


ejaculates, " is it to instruct and truly Chriatisnize one In- 
diaQ, than to baptize thousands, who know not what it is to 
be a Christian, or what to do to be saved. I should like to ask 
those," be continues, " who have been god-fathers to four an<l 
five hundred Indians, what thej have done for their god- 
children ?" 










The Spanish- American Republics, from their birth, have 
exhibited a spectacle full of sorrow to the friends of free 
institutions throughout the world. Their general history has 
been one of anarchy and blood, with scarcely a page from 
which we do not turn in horror and disgust. The partizan 
struggles which, in our own country, come and go like a 
summer storm, agitating the public mind for an instant, but 
leaving it all the quieter when past, have been marked in 
these Republics by a spirit of fierce intolerance, which can 
only be born of the deadliest antagonism, and of which few 
among us can form any adequate conception. 

The first efibrt of a triumphant party is not only to crush 
but exterminate its opponent ; and it does not hesitate to 
adopt the extreme measures of confiscation, exile, and death, 
for the attainment of its objects. So long as it wields the 


power, it is absolute, tyrannical, despotic He who enter- 
tains principles or opinions counter to the dominant faction, 
must guard his words and actions, under peril to property 
and life. 

The consequences are plain and inevitable ; they are hate, 
distrust, intrigue, and revolution. The gall which here flows 
in harmless, inky torrents, through an untrammelled press, 
and the energy which exhausts itself in the forum, or dies 
away in idle reverberations in the domes of our legislative 
halls, there rankles in the heart of the man who feels himself 
the victim of proscription and oppression, and nerves him 
for deeds which would chill the blood of our bitterest parti- 
san, after the depletion of a newspaper article, or an hour's 
harangue: and the skill in combination and arrangement, 
which with us is devoted to no worse purpose than that of 
packing conventions, dictating the decrees of a caucus, and 
canvassing a city, finds scope and verge enough in deep-laid, 
perilous plots against the existing order of things, — for what- 
ever the tendency of that order, it wears the garb of wrong. 

This intolerance precludes the existence of parties, — as we 
understand them, — of parties which are the safeguards of 
every free commonwealth, and necessary to its healthful ex- 
istence. Precluded from a free expression of opinions, and 
shut off from legitimate action, every opposition is driven to 
move in secret conclave, and its measures bear the form, if 
they do not conceal the spirit, of treason. Discovery is per- 
secution, perhaps death ; and scarce a possibility of relief or 
change is offered, except through that last and most danger- 
ous resort, Eevolution. 

It is easy to conceive how a system of detestable espionage 
on one hand, and a scarcely less detestable system of intrigue 
on the other, must spring up under such a condition of 
things. The man of the opposition, however laudable his 
objects or pure his motives, becomes of necessity a conspira- 
tor ; and every conspirator is, by equal necessity, a prey to 


suspicion, which, in its turn, where the perils are so great, 
under some real or fancied necessity, leads to treachery, and 
entails a long series of bloody revenges. 

The disastrous results of these conditions, are not only felt 
in the general political system, but in every part of the social 
and civil body. Law, that sacred intangibility, which, next 
to God, merits and should receive the respect and obedience 
of men, here loses its divinity, and, confounded with the 
tyranny and the bad passions and impulses of the men who 
should be its impartial ministers, but who wield its terrors 
for the worst of purposes, is despised and contemned. That 
religious deference from which it derives its majesty and 
force, and without which it degenerates into a pretext, is 
utterly destroyed, and society is resolved into a chaos of con- 
jQicting elements, where might lords it over right, where life 
nor property is safe, and where neither honor, virtue, nor 
wisdom can long survive. 

It will, no doubt, be conceded, indeed it is evident, that 
the demoralization of the Spanish American Republics, is the 
proximate cause of the intolerance which we have pointed out. 
But whence has this demoralization resulted ? The Spanish 
character is not deficient in many of the best attributes of 
humanity; the Spanish people are not less susceptible to 
lofty impulses than our own. There is not in their individual 
nor in their collective character anything which renders them 
incapable of exercising the rights, or enjoying rationally the 
benefits, of self-government. And those of our people who 
complacently ascribe the general failure of the Spanish Be- 
publics, to a radical, psychological defect of the Spanish race, 
commit a grievous, but a very natural, error. With the ex- 
ception of Chili, all of them have been, thus far, undoubted 
failures. But it should be remembered, that the origin of 
these Republics was widely different from that of our own. 
Among all the impulses to colonization on this continent, we 
seek in vain for any of that exalted character which brought 


our fathers hither. Amongst all the adventurers who flocked 
to America, our ancestors alone had practically solved the 
grand problems of civil and religious freedom. Very differ- 
ent was the advent of the little band of self-relying, earnest 
men, despising and despised of kings, who silently sought a 
refuge in a new continent, relying on their own right arms 
and their God for support, and that of the steel-cased cava- 
liers, the pride and flower of Spain, impelled by ambition 
and avarice, sustained by the proudest monarch of the globe, 
enjoying the full sunshine of royal favor, followed and cheered 
on by the enthusiasts of a proselyting faith, inflamed by the 
wildest dreams of conquest, and striking for the dominion of 
the earth. 

On the one hand the world saw, taking deeper and wider 
root, a people jealous of their rights, securing every possible 
concession in their charters, resisting every encroachment on 
their privileges, and religiously excluding from their midst 
the aristocratic forms of the Old World, becoming daily more 
self-relying, and more imbued with the spirit, and familiar 
with the forms of self-government. The blessings and privi- 
leges of freedom came to them, os the reward of long, un- 
wearying, enlightened endeavor; when attained, like the 
slowly accumulated competence of the laborer, they knew 
how to value and how to use them. Our revolution was the 
consummation of centuries of well-directed, rational effort for 

In Spanish America, on the other hand, amidst the mag- 
nificence of the tropics, and the fragments of aboriginal 
greatness, became diffused a people, reflecting alike the 
splendors and the corruptions of a powerful court and of an 
arrogant aristocracy. The highest incentives to action were 
the favors of artificial and hereditary greatness, or the accu- 
mulation, by whatsoever means, of that wealth by which 
these favors might be purchased. The fame of those whose 
names fill the earlier pages of the history of this people, is 


that of conquerors alone. They encountered unprecedented 
dangers, displayed an energy unparalleled in human achieve- 
ment, overturned empires, and trod with bloody steps over 
more than half a continent. Yet it was for the aggrandize- 
ment of the crown of Castile and Leon alone ; and the iron 
men who executed these great deeds, prostrated themselves 
before the throne of their sovereign, to receive their reward 
in marquisates, commands, and grants of lands and mines, 
and powers almost arbitrary over the conquered inhabitants 
of the New World. After them followed the Viceroys, emu- 
lating the kings of Europe in their regal pomp, and setting 
up mimic courts, amongst a new aristocracy, more rigorous 
and exacting than the old. Here, in short, were reproduced, 
in many of their most odious forms, the systems of monarch- 
ical Europe, followed by their entire train of corruptions in 
Church and State. Power and wealth, jfrom the first, rapidly 
concentrated in the hands of the few; and ignorance and 
superstition brooded with leaden wings over the minds of 
the many. There were no longer empires to conquer; no 
more Montezumas and Atahualpas, upon whose humbled 
shoulders a new Cortez and Pizarro might rise to renown ; 
and the years which followed were marked by none of those 
startling achievements which lend a lustre to wrong, and 
throw a glory over crime, blinding us to its enormity, and 
almost reconciling us to its contemplation. The Viceroyalties 
of Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru, were no longer the prizes of 
the brave and daring; they were filled by the arrogant 
minions of a court, and attained by arts which a Cortez and 
Alvarado would have scorned to use. A degenerate aris- 
tocracy filled the places of the conquistadors, and added the 
vices of effeminacy and indolence to the crimes of cruelty 
and oppression. 

Under this order of things, nothing beyond a very quali- 
fied advance, on the part of the people, was possible. And 
this advance, such as it was, took place in spite of the obsta- 

VOL. II. 47 


cle« which this very order of things interposed. But it was 
not suflBciently great, to lead to a comprehension of what con- 
stituted the primary and essential elements of civil freedom. 
Truly Eepublican Institutions are the loftiest developments 
of human wisdom ; and their existence pre-supposes, not only 
a general diffusion of knowledge, but high attainment in it, 
amongst the people at large. Their permanence depends 
upon the general intelligence and morality. In the Spanish 
American colonies, it is obvious, such attainment was im- 
possible. They did not even keep pace with the meliorations 
and improvements, which the lapse of time was slowly but 
surely bringing about in Europe, and which even Spain her- 
self could not resist. These colonies were borne down and 
restrained, not only by the weight of an irresponsible local 
government, imperial except in name, but by that of a de- 
caying and exacting empire on another continent, which 
forced the life's blood from their veins to sustain its own 
languid existence, — a double curse, which those colonies 
most deeply felt, but which they knew not how to remove. 
The sense of wrong was keen amongst their people, but their 
ideas of redress were vague and indefinite ; rather the off- 
spring of the instincts of self-preservation and revenge, than 
the suggestions of reason and experience. 

In due course of events, by a series of regular advances, 
came on our own revolution, — a struggle for objects clearly 
defined and well understood. It was successful, and the 
proximate cause of that great civil and moral convulsion, 
which burst the ligatures that priestcraft and kingcraft had 
been binding, fold on fold, for a thousand years, on the pas- 
sive limbs of Europe, and which we call the French Revolu- 
tion. Events like these, in spite of Viceroys, and edicts of 
suppression, and the whole machinery of despotism, could 
not be kept unknown to the world. The Indian, brooding 
over his wrongs in the deep valleys of the Andes, or delving 
in mines of El Pasco in Peru, the Creole, on the narrow 

* ■ 









slopes of Chili, or the higher plains of Mexico, and around 
the volcanoes and broad lakes of Central America, heard the 
distant tread of revolutions, — and his heart leapt, his eye 
kindled, and his muscles tightened as he heard. The leaven 
sank deep in the Spanish American Colonies, and thoughts 
of change, and high aspirations for the future, too often dark- 
ened by hate and jealousy, and not always unmingled with 
the wild longings for retribution and revenge, thenceforth 
filled the minds of their people. 

Continental Spain early felt the shock of the Revolution in 
France; hoary with abuses, and blackened with corruption, 
yet glorious in recollections, the crumbling fabric of her 
greatness fell, never to rise again. Her mission of conquest 
and propagandism was ended, and all that was, or is, or will 
be left of her, is her Great Past! Yet in her fall, the colonies, 
like the ivy around the old tower which the earthquake has 
prostrated, still clung to the ruins. The power of the Vice- 
roys was fresh and strong, while that of the King was weak. 
They still cherished their allegiance for the throne of Ferdi- 
nand and Isabella, although profaned by a Bonaparte, and 
surrounded by foreign bayonets ; and exhibited to the world 
the singular spectacle of an empire vigorous at the extremi- 
ties, while dead at the heart. There was something admira- 
ble in the devotion with which they clung to their traditions. 
Even the colonists themselves forgot for a moment their 
grievances and wrongs, in recollection of their past glories 
and greatness, and in contemplation of the land of their* 
fathers, the dominions of the Fifth Charles, prostrate and pow- 
erless at the feet of France. Spain, harsh, exacting, cruel, 
was still their mother country ; and so far as patriotism con- 
sists in simple love of country, the Spaniard and his descend- 
ant is always a patriot. The Creole girl, though centuries 
intervene, and her ancestral blood has been fed from a hun- 
dred diverse, springs, still cherishes with pride the lute-like, 
liquid pronunciation of her Andalusian ancestors; or in 



indignant reply to an unacceptable proposal, with the brow of 
a Catherine, and the lip of a queen, ejaculates, " Soy una 
Catalina /" I am a Cataline girl ! 

With the restoration in Spain, the feeling of patriotic sym- 
pathy among the Spanish colonists died away, and they felt, 
in the still unrelenting rule of the Viceroys, that the reforms 
which that restoration had brought about in Europe, were 
not for them. The Viceroys, on the other hand, with the 
colonial aristocracy, and the priesthood — themselves, in their 
almost unlimited power and great wealth, constituting a most 
formidable ecclesiastical oligarchy, — saw with alarm the pro- 
gress of these very reforms. The representative principle 
had been introduced into Spain; the power of the monarch, 
hitherto practically absolute, had been limited ; the aristocra* 
cy reformed; the clergy shorn of its undue privileges; pri- 
mogeniture abolished; and the great principle of ^^Igualidad 
ante la Ley^^ Equality before the Law, boldly promulgated. 
They feared the spread of the spirit of liberalism, which had 
worked these marvellous changes at home. Nor were their 
fears unfounded. In spite of distance, in spite of ages of de- 
pression, although ignorance and superstition held almost 
absolute sway in the Spanish colonies, rays of the new light 
reached America, and men were found who began to talk 
boldly of human rights, and to hint at their future recogni- 
tion. The voice of Freedom, gratefiil to the rudest ear, had 
its thousands of listeners. It fell upon the depressed people 
like strains of music upon the sayage, in a whirl of exciting 
and pleasurable emotions. Vague hopes of an unknown fu- 
ture, shone out upon the clouds which enveloped them. The 
more enlightened enthusiasts dreamed of a Utopia about to 
be realized ; the Creole, of a new order of things, in which 
he should stand equal with the highest ; the Indian of the 
return of those traditional, glorious days, when the democra- 
cy of Tlascalla, like that of Sparta, had its simple but severe 
laws, wisely adapted to its own wants and condition, and 


when their fathers wore no hated foreign yoke ; but few, if 
any, entertained any clear idea of what constituted true Re- 
publicanism, or comprehended the processes by which its en- 
joyment might be attained and secured. The best, not to say 
the wisest among them, like the revolutionists of France, fell 
into the error of supposing that a people weary of tyranny, 
and enthusiastic for freedom, were of necessity able to com- 
prehend its requiremehts, and fulfill its conditions, while they 
enjoyed its latitudes. Republics are of slow growth ; they 
are, to a certain extent, the results of that high development 
of humanity which they are, in turn, adapted to perfect 
While then the more abstract truths of Republicanism were 
promulgated with eloquence and force, the means for the 
attainment of rational freedom were lost sight of, or but im- 
perfectly recognized. Separation jfrom Spain was the first, 
grand, practical object kept in view ; this accomplished, it was 
deemed* all else that was needful or desirable would follow. 

It has been a subject of remark, with many perhaps of sur- 
prise, that the dismemberment of the Spanish empire, and 
the independence of its American colonies, were so easily 
accomplished. That it was, in great part, due to the weak- 
ness of the mother country, is indisputable. But there were 
other causes favoring that result, to which we shall briefly 

The aristocratic portion of the Spanish American popula- 
tion, by which is meant not only those who held places or 
derived importance from their connection with the govern- 
ment, but those also whose principles were monarchical and 
exclusive in their tendency, including the vast body of the 
richly endowed priesthood, were not only astonished at the 
spread of liberal principles at home, but feared that the 
sweeping reforms there effected would extend to America, 
and reach their own body. They trembled for their pre- 
scriptions and privileges. But self-confident and presump- 
tuous, claiming to possess the education, and most certainly 


possessing the wealth of the colonies, and the power which 
it confers, they saw with less alarm the development and 
promulgation of liberal ideas in America. And when the 
cry of " Separation from Spain!'' was raised, they caught it 
from the lips of the people, and made it almost unanimoua 
In this separation they saw not only their present security, 
but the perpetuation of their cherished powers and privileges. 
The Viceroy hoped, from the reflex and representative of an 
emperor, to become himself a king, to shine with original not 
borrowed lustre ; and the aristocracy to rise from a colonial 
dependency to a national rank and independence. They 
looked forward to the establishment of a political and priestly 
oligarchy, which should dominate over the ignorant masses, 
with more than their present powers and distinctions. Thus 
the absolutism, the old intolerances, the prejudices, and cor- 
ruptions of Spain, born of priestcraft and tyranny, took 
refuge in America, and made their final stand against the 
progress of liberal sentiments. The heterogeneous union thus 
eflfectcd, for the accomplishment of the single object of separa- 
tion from Spain, was successful. Except in Mexico and 
Colombia, and some of the seaport strongholds of South 
America, this result was achieved with scarce a struggle. 
Spain confided in her colonial oflBcers to maintain the in- 
tegrity of the empire ; and when these failed her, she knew 
too well her own weakness to prolong a contest, which our 
own revolution had shown her must be hopeless. Nowhere 
was the separation effected with greater unanimity, and more 
easily, than in Central America ; and to that country do we 
more particularly refer, in the pages which follow. 

But no sooner was the separation effected, hardly had the 
mutual congratulations upon that result been exchanged, 
when the people called, in a voice of thunder, for absolute 
independence, on the basis, so far as they could comprehend 
it, of the great Republic of the North. 

And now commenced that deadly, uncompromising strug- 


gle between the two grand antagonistic principles which we 
have indicated; represented, on one side, bj a rich and 
powerful aristocracy, and a jealous and beneficed clergy, and 
on the other, by the people, sensible of their abstract riglits, 
rich only in their devotion, but enthusiastically attached to 
what they understood to be Liberty and Republicanism ; 
between, in short, what in Mexico and Central America have 
been called the Serviles and Liberals ; — names which we shall 
henceforth use, for the sake of easy distinction- From a 
struggle for supremacy, it is easy to perceive, how this con- 
test became one of extermination ; for there can be no com- 
promise, no fusion, between principles so implacably hostile 
as those which now divided the Spanish American colonies. 
Hence has resulted, in great part, that fierce intolerance 
which I have pointed out and deplored at the commencement 
of this chapter ; and hence that series of revolutions and 
counter-revolutions, which have hitherto distracted the 
Spanish American States, and in which the great mass of our 
people see only the rivalship of petty chieftains, and partisan 
struggles for ascendancy. 

Our own revolution was little beyond a contest for the 
form of Republicanism.; its substantial advantages had 
already been won slowly and in detail, the fruits of a series 
of popular advances, commencing at Ruuymcdo, where the 
barons broke the sceptre of absolutism, and practically 
triumphing under the commonwealth, when Cromwell struck 
down with iron glaive both king and barons. The deadly 
encounters between the two principles, which, with us, ran 
through a period of centuries, in the Spanish American 
States have been concentrated within the shorter period of 
years. The revolution is still going on ; the rights of man 
are not yet fully vindicated; the triumph of Republicanism 
no£ yet attained; the downfall of Servilism not yet complete. 
It is most true the efforts of the Liberals have not always 
been wisely directed, and that by falling into the excesses of 


their opponents, they have retarded and imperifled their own 
success. It is not less true that they had to operate more 
upon the feelings, and less upon the judgment of the people, 
than the leaders in our own emancipation ; and in the frenzy 
of excitement, have been forced into the commission of deeds 
disgraceful to their cause, and which they were the first to 
deplore. But the odium of the bloodiest and most revolting 
features of the contest belongs not to them. The whole 
course of the Serviles has been marked by atrocity. They 
have shown neither tolerance, generosity, nor mercy ; and 
have given a cast of brutality and barbarism to every struggle 
in which they have been engaged. 

It is not my purpose to go into a detailed, political history 
of Central America, since the separation from Spain, much 
less of Mexico and the other States, in all of which might 
be traced the development and working of the principles and 
causes which I have pointed out. We have to deal only 
with generalities. It is, perhaps, enough, in the way of illus- 
tration, to refer to the success of the Serviles in Mexico, in 
the establishment of an ephemeral empire, under Iturbide. 
Their triumph, however, was brief; and with the fall of that 
short-lived empire, monarchy disappeared forever from the 
North American Continent. 


REPUBLIC. 1821-1823. 

In no part of Spanish America were the abuses of Spain 
and the tyranny of her colonial system more conspicuous 
than in Central America, while it constituted the Captain- 
Generalcy or Kingdom of Guatemala. Her jealous colonial 
policy precluded the people of that wide region from any 
communication or relationship with the world at large. For- 
eigners were rigidly excluded from its shores, nor was emi- 
gration thither from Spain itself permitted, except under 
severe restrictions. The power of the mother country was 
systematically magnified, and the dependence and impotence 
of the colonies sedulously inculcated. The officers of the 
crown were allowed the largest prerogatives, and invested 
with almost unlimited powers, which were often used for the 
promotion of individual objects, and for purposes of personal 
aggrandizement. They had neither interests or sympathies 
in common with the people at large. With them was leagued 
a priesthood, rich, and wielding the powers of that terrible 
instrument of oppression, the Inquisition. Conjointly they 
were absolute and irresistible. The conquered aborigines 
became the passive slaves of their will, cultivating their es- 
tates without pay, and sustaining taxes from which the ruling 
classes were exempted. They were not permitted to ride 
their own mules or horses ; and the stocks and the whipping- 

VOL. II. 48 


post were the penalties for daring to stand covered in the 
presence of their despoilers ! 

I have already recited some of the causes which led to 
the overthrow of this order of things. As early as 1815 the 
first open expressions of discontent were manifested in Leon 
de Nicaragua. To that city belongs the glory of having 
given the first impulse to liberal sentiments in Central Amer- 
ica. Although the movement was ^suppressed, yet it had the 
effect to arouse the popular mind, and direct the thoughts of 
men into the revolutionary channel, at the same time that it 
convinced the officers of the Government that an early and 
effectual separation fi'om Spain was inevitable. The line of 
policy which they adopted, I have already indicated. True 
to their instincts, they sought to direct the gathering elements 
to their own advantage, and offered no eflfectual opposition 
to the preliminary arrangements for independence. 

These arrangements were completed on the 15th of Sep- 
tember, 1821, when the people of the city of Guatemala, and 
the representatives of the people at large, assembled in the 
Palace of the Audiencia, and proclaimed the independence of 
the country. The change was bloodless but decisive. Those 
who, from sympathy or position, were too closely identified 
with Spain, to join either in the Republican sentiment, or in 
the designs of those who sought independence as the means 
of securing supreme power in their own hands, quietly left 
the country, and retired unmolested to Cuba or Spain. The 
Serviles and the Liberals alone remained, and from that 
period dates the commencement of the unrelenting, and as 
yet undetermined contest, between the great antagonistic 
principles of which they are respectively the representatives. 

It is not to be doubted, indeed, it is capable of proof, that 
the Serviles of Central America originally contemplated the 
establishment of an independent Kingdom or Monarchy, 
which should comprise the provinces belonging to the ancient 
Kingdom of Guatemala. But the Provisional Junta which 


was convened immediately after the separation, showed a 
large majority of Liberals, who, in spite of the efforts of the 
astonished and almost paralyzed Serviles, proceeded to ad- 
minister the oath of absolute independence^ and to convoke a 
national Constituent Assembly which should organize the 
country on the basis of Kepublican Institutions. The Ser- 
viles were now suddenly and painfully aroused from their 
self-confident dreams ; they found themselves in an impotent 
numerical minority; the people, which they had despised and 
expected easily to control, had come boldly forward and 
claimed their rights. In the meeting of the National Assem- 
bly and the proclamation of the Republic, they foresaw the 
destruction of their cherished hopes, and the loss not only 
of the new privileges and powers which they had hoped to 
gain from the separation, but of all that they had ever pos- 
sessed. Under these circumstances they witnessed with 
anxious envy the establishment of an empire in Mexico ; 
and, distrusting their own strength to resist the popular will, 
determined to forego a portion of their hopes, to secure the 
realization of the remainder. They sought the incorporation 
of Central America in the Mexican Empire, and demanded the 
assistance of the now triumphant Serviles of that country for 
the accomplishment of that object. The proposition flattered 
the vanity of Iturbide, the so-called emperor, and titles and 
decorations were asked and promised in anticipation of its 
success. Assured of this support, they took new courage, 
and with desperate zeal endeavored to turn the tide of popu- 
lar feeling. 

The Constituent Assembly, pursuant to the convocation of 
the Provisional Junta, nevertheless met in Guatemala, the 
richest and most populous city of the country, but unfortu- 
nately, from having been the seat of the viceregal court, the 
only city really devoted to the Servile interest. It was, in 
feet, and still is, the centre of Servilism ; where all its plans 
are organized, and whence all its operations are directed. 


The Assembly, notwithstanding all the eflforts of the conspira- 
tors, who with pompous promises and golden dreams of opu- 
lence and felicity under the empire, had endeavored to seduce 
the ignorant and mercenary portion of the people into the 
support of their plans, and with partial success, — the Assem- 
bly, to their mortification and chagrin, showed a large 
majority of Liberals in its constitution. An attempt to 
corrupt this majority, signally failed ; and then was made the 
first direct and open attack upon the popular party, — the 
initiative violence in that long series which has since dis- 
tracted that devoted country, and brought it to the brink of 
utter ruin. The hall of the Constituent Assembly was 
blockaded by armed bands, and its deliberations forcibly 
suspended. A number of the most distinguished members 
among the Liberals were assassinated, and by treason, vio- 
lence, and blood, Servilism gained its first triumph in Guate- 

The people of Central America were scattered thinly over 
a wide country, and from their diffusion prevented from con- 
centrating in support of their representatives. It was weeks 
after these events, while anxiously awaiting the promulgation 
of a Republican charter, that the unsuspecting people were 
startled by the proclamation of the Serviles, proposing the 
adhesion of the country to the Mexican Empire ! Men stood 
aghast. Their leaders had fallen, or were incarcerated in the 
dungeons of Guatemala ; and to crown their distress, treason 
stalked into their own ranks. Gainza, a weak but popular 
man, who had presided over the Provisional Junta, seduced 
by the promises of the Serviles, and delirious with the pros- 
pect of a brilliant advancement in the empire as the reward 
of his treachery, had joined the triumphant faction. 

Stimulated by gold, confused bands of men now paraded 
the streets of Guatemala and the adjacent towns, invoking 
death on the leaders of the Liberal party, and demanding the 
proscription of all who adhered to them. They invaded the 


houfles of the Republicans, and added murder to robbery and 
pillage. But to give an appearance of formality to the medi- 
tated outrage, a spurious convocation was held, at the head 
of which, with practical irony, was placed the traitor Gainza. 
This convocation affected to submit the question of incor- 
poration with the Mexican empire, not to the people, but to 
the decision of the municipalities and the army I The day 
was fixed for the trial, too early, however, to permit of 
returns to be received from any except the immediate dej^en- 
dencies of Guatemala. The army, reorganized by the usur- 
pers, and made up of their instruments, stood ready to second 
and enforce their wishes. Few had the courage to oppose 
these proceedings, and they did so at the peril of their lives; 
and, as was to be anticipated, by the votes of a mercenary 
army, and of the alarmed and trembling municipalities, fraud- 
ulently computed, it was declared that the question of aggrega- 
tion to the Mexican Empire was carried, and a decree to that 
effect was at once issued. A force, previously solicited from 
Mexico, was already on its march, under the command of 
Gen. Filisola, to effect, by foreign bayonets, the consummation 
of the treason thus successfully commenced. 

As we have said, these movements of the Serviles were for 
a considerable period scarcely known beyond the immediate 
vicinity of Guatemala, and were unsustained by the people 
at large. No sooner did the people recover from their aston- 
ishment, than they set themselves to work to oppose the 
attempted usurpation. San Salvador, the nearest province 
to Guatemala, and the centre of Liberalism, was the first to 
hear of the events which we have recorded, and the first to 
adopt measures of resistance. The oligarchists felt their 
insecurity, and hastily despatched a force to check the demon- 
strations in San Salvador. The sturdy republicans of that 
little province as hastily took the field, and the Servile army, 
notwithstanding its superior numbers, was met and beaten. 
For the first time, but unfortunately not the lajst, the repre- 


sentatives of the two great antagonistic principles, which we 
have undertaken to define, met on the battle field. The soil 
of Central America is drenched in blood, its energies are 
almost exhausted, and the end is not vet ! 

The patriots of San Salvador were seconded by the people 
of the flourishing cities of Granada in Nicaragua, and San 
Jose in Costa Rica. Leon, the capital of Nicaragua, how- 
ever, became the scene of a severe struggle. The Bishop of 
the province had, from the beginning, opposed the popular 
movement, and now openly advocated the designs of the 
Serviles. The power of the Church had not yet been broken, 
and he was supported, not only by the aristocratic faction, 
but also by many whose bigotry overruled their judgment, 
or who were blind followers of the priesthood. This con- 
troversy led, subsequently, to scenes the most terrible, and 
ended in the almost entire devastation of the city — which, in 
its fall, permanently prostrated the Servile faction in Nica- 

The triumph of the Liberals in San Salvador, would have 
been fatal to the Serviles, and might have secured their 
downfall for ever. But almost simultaneously with the ar- 
rival in Guatemala of the news of their overthrow, the im- 
perial forces of Iturbide reached that city. With renewed 
confidence, the Serviles rallied their despairing army, and the 
fratricides of Guatemala marched in company with troops of 
the empire, upon the victorious Liberals. Suffice it to say, 
after a long and bloody campaign, the forces of San Salvador 
were broken up, and her submission completed. 

With this campaign commenced those atrocities, which, 
through retaliation and otherwise, have given to Central 
American warfare a character of savage barbarity, almost 
unprecedented in history. The mercenaries of Mexico ac- 
knowledged no restraint. They despised the soldiery with 
which they were associated, and when not in active duty, 
spread terror wherever they were quartered, alike amongst 


friends and foes. The vilest outrages, rape, robbery, and 
murder, were of daily occurrence. Drunken soldiers 
swarmed the streets and public places of the towns and 
cities, and wantonly attacked and wounded, often slew, the 
first they encountered. The black flag of the empire was 
everywhere the signal for rapine ; and blood and murder was 
the synonym of " Viva el Emperador I" The public treasury 
was exhausted, the rich robbed, and the public charities con- 
fiscated to support the foreign and mercenary forces; and 
the people, no longer enjoying the protection of law, and 
everywhere the victims of a brutal soldiery, were driven to 
defend their individual rights, and to revenge themselves in 
detail upon their oppressors, — thus aggravating the horrors 
of disorder and anarchy. The public demoralization was 
complete ; and such was the second triumph of Servilism 1 

On the 5th of January, 1822, the Mexican Government 
had been proclaimed in Guatemala. And while the events 
which we have related were transpiring, Iturbide, by a de- 
cree, dated the 4th of November of the same year, decreed 
the division of the country into three Captain-Generalcies, 
viz : Chiapas, with its capital at Ciudad Real ; Sacatapequez, 
with its capital at Guatemala ; and Nicaragua, with its capital 
at Leon. In all, the officers were appointed from amongst 
the members of the Servile faction. Practically, however, 
no power was ever exercised under this attempted organiza- 
tion. San Salvador, though beaten in the field, was not 
conquered. Its Provisional Congress, notwithstanding that 
it was driven from place to place, remained intact, and defied 
the invaders of the province. 

It was under these circumstances, and as a means of 
retaining its freedom, that this Congress resolved upon a step 
expressive of sympathies and sentiments, which still exist, 
vigorous and unchanged. It resolved upon annexation to 
the United States ; and by a solemn act, on the 2d of Decem- 
ber, 1822, decreed its incorporation with that Eepublic, whose 


example sustained it in its adversity, and to whicli it nata- 
rally looked, " as the head of the great Eepublican fiEunily." 
It is not known that any action was taken upon this pro- 
position, by the American Government. Fortunately, the 
triumph of Servilism was of short duration, and the im- 
mediate necessity for such action was obviated ; for, in the 
midst of these events, came the startling news of the down- 
fall of the empire of Iturbide, before the well-directed ener- 
gies of the Liberals of Mexico. The forces of Filisola were 
at once disbanded, and the Serviles again thrown upon their 
own resources. Without exterior aid they were unable to 
sustain themselves for a moment, and they at once aban- 
doned all opposition to the Republicans, who everywhere 
assumed the direction of affairs. Chiapas, partly from incli- 
nation, and partly from force of circumstances, chose to share 
its destinies with Mexico ; but the remaining States, Nicara- 
gua, Guatemala, San Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Bica, at 
once united in sending delegates to a Constituent Assembly, 
for the purpose of organizing the country upon a republican 
basis. The Serviles did not venture to oppose the meeting 
of this Assembly, but sought to bend it to their purposes. 
To this end they exerted their utmost skill and energy. 
They aimed to establish a practical dictatorship, which should 
some day, by an easy transition, resolve itself into their 
cherished form of a monarchy. 

The deliberations of the Assembly terminated in the 
adoption of the Constitution of 1824. This, however, was 
contested, chapter by chapter, and section by section, but 
vigorously and triumphantly sustained by the Liberals. The 
guaranties of individual rights, the representative principle, 
habeas corpus, and the liberty of the press, were tacitly con- 
curred in by the Serviles, because they feared to oppose 
them. But they were the first to be assailed and overthrown, 
when that party subsequently attained the ascendancy. The 
plan of federation contained in the new Constitution met with 


their most determined hostility ; and, looking to centraliza- 
tion, they as vehemently opposed the recognition of the local 
and internal powers, and qualified sovereignty of the several 
states. In this they were sustained by many of the Liberals 
themselves, who thought these provisions were not adapted 
to the present wants of the country. 

The acts of this Assembly, apart from the promulgation of 
the Constitution, were of the most liberal and enlightened 
character. In the sweeping reforms which they were de- 
signed to effect, they remind us forcibly of the doings of the 
Eepublican Conventions of France. All titles and privileges 
of nobility were abolished, including the title of Don ; the 
sale of Papal bulls was prohibited ; all obstacles to emigration 
removed ; the widest guarantees of security to foreigners and 
their property conceded ; and finally the Eepublic was de- 
creed under the name of "The Republic of Central 
America," with a national flag, having, for its armorial devi- 
ces, five volcanoes, and bearing the motto, "Dios, Union, 
Libertad," — God, Union, Liberty I 

Amongst the acts of this Assembly, there is one which de- 
serves more than a mere passing mention. By a decree of 
the 17th of April, 1824, it abolished slavery absolutely and 
at once, and provided against its reestablishment, at any 
time, or in any part of the Eepublic. The Slave Trade was 
declared to be piracy, and the heaviest punishments were de- 
creed against all persons who should engage in it, directly or 
indirectly. To Central America, therefore, belongs the glory 
of having been the first country in the world to abolish Ne- 
gro Slavery. And, to the policy marked out by its first Con- 
stituent Assembly, it has ever and faithfully adhered. It was 
the adoption of this measure which led to its first dispute 
with Great Britain — that loud-mouthed advocate of philan- 
thropy, when philanthropy is profitable, and never other- 
wise. Will it be credited that, as late as 1840, a claim, en- 
forced by vessels of war, was made against Central America 

VOL. n. 49 


by the British Government for slaves who had fled fiom 
Belize, and secured their freedom under the Constitution of 
Central America? Yet such is the fact — the black, damn- 
ing fact ! ^ 

The Constitution published on the 27th of December, 1823, 
was not decreed until the 22d of November, 1824. With its 
adoption, the Serviles seem for a while to have abandoned 
their unpatriotic opposition and insane designs. The enthu- 
siasm of the people was at its height, and to oppose it was 
madness. In spite of many radical defects, and of many 
formidable assaults, this Constitution lasted for a whole de- 
cade, and exercised a most beneficial influence upon the coun- 
try. Had the people at large possessed that general intelli- 
gence which prevailed amongst our own people, at the time 
they effected their independence, and which, while it gave 
them a clear insight into their own wants and requirements, 
preserved them from the arts and sophistry of demagogues 
and designing men, — then, no doubt, it would have been re- 
formed and perpetuated, and given peace, happiness, and 
prosperity to the country. "Even as it was," observes a 

' Upon this point we have the distinct testimony of a British subject, 
himself at that time a resident in Belize. He says: "As late as 1840, a 
claim was made by the British Grovernment for the return to slavery of some 
Africans who had restored themselves to liberty by withdrawing from 
British Honduras, and settling under the protection of the Republic. The 
claim was moved by the British Consul General (ChatQeld), and seconded 
by British officers, both military and civil, who were sent to Guatemala, 
to demand the persons of these poor Africans, and supported by the pres- 
ence of a British vessel of war upon their coasts. But though the Gov- 
ernment of the Republic was then weak and dismembered, there was 
moral rectitude and dignity enough in it to spurn the demand of a Gov- 
ernment to which, on other matters, it had so long been accustomed to 
yield. In their reply they declared that no slaves were or could be re- 
cognized in their territories, the inviolability of which they asserted, al- 
though conscious of their lack of physical power to maintain it against 
snch a foe." — Ghspel m Central America. — ^p. 122. 


Central American writer, "no one, whatever his prejudices, 
could fail to perceive the advance in the manners and cus- 
toms, and the change in the spirit of the people of Central 
America, during the ten years of freedom of the press which 
this Constitution secured." 




Sometime previous to the adoption of the National Consti- 
tution, the people of San Salvador met in convention, and 
framed a State Constitution. It was decreed June 12, 1824, 
and a local government installed in conformity with its 
provisions. San Salvador, foremost in every liberal move- 
ment, was followed in succession by Costa Rica, January 2, 
Guatemala, October 11, Honduras, December 11, 1825, and 
Nicaragua, April 8, 1826. On the 6th of February, 1825, 
the Federal Representatives assembled in the city of Guate- 
mala. They numbered thirty-four members, apportioned as 
follows : — Guatemala seventeen ; San Salvador nine ; Hon- 
duras six ; Nicaragua six ; and Costa Rica two. General 
Arce, distinguished more for his hostility to the Spanish rule 
than for his abilities or qualifications for the office, was 
elected President, and installed in office on the 29th of 
April following. In the same month, a Federal Senate, 
consisting, as in our own country, of two members from each 
state, also convened in Guatemala, and was organized by 
Mariano Beltrancno, Vice President of the Republic, and, in 
virtue of that office. President of the Senate. ' 

' At this time a Supreme Court of Appeals was established in Guate- 
mala ; Dr. T. A. Oberon, being the first President All the States also 
appointed State Courts in place of the old Spanish tribunals, but the 
laws and customs, and most of the offices pertaining to the old courts 
were perpetuated. 


The Eepublic was now fairly started. For a time affairs 
moved on smoothly ; and the country, enjoying peace and 
quiet, made rapid strides in a career of improvement and 
prosperity. But the Serviles, though defeated, were not de- 
stroyed, and were active in sowing the seeds of discontent, 
wherever an opportunity was afforded them of exciting the 
prejudices or the jealousies of the people. In the city of 
Leon, as we have seen, the bishop, seconded by the bigots of 
the Church and the aristocratic faction, had strenuously op- 
posed every movement towards a republic. His strength 
was principally concentrated in the city, although even 
there he was not in a numerical majority. Yet his adherents 
possessed most of the wealth of the place, which appeared to 
be controlled by them. This fact rendered Leon obnoxious 
to the liberal towns of the state, and originated a feeling of 
jealousy, which is not yet wholly eradicated. Every move- 
ment in that city was looked upon with suspicion. When, 
therefore, after some months of quiet, while the administra- 
tion of affairs was still in the hands of the Provisional 
Government, the mob, incited by the bishop or his rash 
friends, exacted the removal of Basilio Carillo from the 
chief command, the event created a profound sensation 
throughout the state. Elated by their success, the anti- 
liberals followed up this violence by other similar demands. 
A reaction followed, and a counter-movement was made in 
the city itself, which was soon plunged into all the horrors of 
a civil war. The conflict was carried on with terrible energy, 
and without mercy upon either side. Ward was arrayed 
against ward, street against street, neighbor against neigh- 
bor, brother against brother, and father against son. The 
contest spread to the neighboring towns; partisans upon 
both sides took up arms, and rallied to the support of their 
respective friends in the capital. Here the contest was pro- 
longed, with various successes, for one hundred and fourteen 
days. During this time a great part of the city, including 


its best built and richest portion, was destroyed ; a thousand 
dwellings, it is said, were given to the flames in a single 
night. Leon was reduced to a ruin ; yet both parties main- 
tained their ground with an obstinacy rarely paralleled in 
history. How long the contest would have been continued, 
it is impossible to say, had not General Arce entered the 
State, at the head of a body of Federal troops from San 
Salvador. This intervention restored peace; the Serviles 
and their adherents submitted to the overwhelming liberal 
sentiment of the Republic, and a treacherous calm rested for 
a while upon the surface of affairs. 

The Liberal leaders, generally men of good education and 
lofty and patriotic aims, whose principal error was an undue 
confidence in the popular impulse (not to say judgment), in 
reviewing the struggle through which they had passed, failed 
not to discover that ignorance and priestcraft were the grand 
obstacles to the prosperity of the country — its foes, and the 
disturbers of its peace. The Church had arrayed itself 
openly on the side of the monarchical foction, and identified 
itself with those who had manifested their determination to 
ruin if they could not rule. But while that Church had no 
hold upon the Liberal leaders, who despised its dogmas and 
laughed at its forms, it still wielded a strong influence over 
the uneducated masses. Policy, therefore, forbade a direct 
and open warfare upon it, on the part of the Liberals. But 
rightly comprehending that general education is irreconcil- 
able with popular superstition, and its most effective op- 
ponent, they directed their utmost endeavors to the diffusion 
of knowledge. The Lancasterian system of education had 
then been newly introduced in the United States and Europe. 
ScIhwIs upon this plan were hastily established in many of 
the towns ; but they were inadequate to meet the public 
requirements. The people were enthusiastic to learn — 
means of education were everywhere demanded, but teachers 
were not to be found. In this emergency, the officers of the 


government vindicated the principles whicli they professed, 
by volunteering their services, as teachers, in the intervals of 
their official duties. *' The very barracks were converted 
into class rooms, and the barefooted Indian soldiers were 
instructed in the rudiments of knowledge by their officers." 
Never, before or since, has the world witnessed a more 
earnest devotion to the public good than was displayed by 
the Liberals during this period of their ascendancy, and until 
the hydra of Servilism again reared its crushed but un- 
severed heads. 

In San Salvador, however, the people, better educated and 
more radical in their sentiments than in the other states, 
coidd not brook this slow process of undermining the fabric 
of the Church. Indignant at some assumptions of power on 
the part of the archbishop, who resided in Guatemala, and 
who was conspicuous for his reactionary sentiments, they 
asserted the broad principle that the people have the right 
to choose their religious as well as their civil leaders; and, 
acting accordingly, elected a Liberal priest, one of their own 
citizens, Dr. Delegado, Bishop of the State. The archbishop 
denounced the act, and the Pope himself, regarding it as an 
infringement on his prerogatives, not only disapproved of it, 
but demanded its revocation, under threats of excommunica- 
tion against the entire people of the State. But the threat 
was received with cool defiance; and shortly after Costa Eica 
followed the example of San Salvador, in like disregard of 
the successor of St. Peter. These proceedings, to say the 
least, were impolitic, and tended to precipitate collisions, 
which, by disturbing the educational system, prolonged, if 
they did not strengthen, the power and influence of the 
Church, and saved it from the fate to which it was doomed 
by the slow but sure process of educational reform. 

We now come to events which history sorrows to record. 
Five years had elapsed since the successful blow for inde- 
pendence had been struck. The attempt to establish a new 


monarchy, or aristocratic oligarchy, had signally failed, and 
a liberal and truly republican government had been es- 
tablished, which had devoted itself to the amelioration of 
the country, with energy and success. With the exception 
of the disturbance in Leon, which was rather a local feud 
than a formal assault upon the new order of things, and a 
feeble attempt to revive the Spanish authority in Costa Rica, 
no open opposition had been made to the Eepublic. But 
while peaceful on the surface, the elements of discord were 
actively at work below. The same broad distinctions of 
party still existed, but the opposition had formed new and 
dangerous combinations. Ardent aspirations for independ- 
ence had, at first, borne down and overcome many deeply 
seated prejudices in the minds of the populace, which re- 
asserted their sway, to a greater or less extent, when the ob- 
ject of these aspirations had been attained, and their 
enthusiasm become cooled. Such must always be the case 
when men are controlled more by impulse and feelings than 
by reason and reflection. Tlie reactionary leaders were not 
slow to avail themselves of this circumstance, and succeeded 
in planting, in the minds of many of the people, the seeds of 
dissatisfaction with the very results which they themselves 
had aided to bring about.* 

' The composition of the two parties, at this time, is well presented by 
an English author, to whose generally correct and impartial observations 
I have already frequently had occasion to allude. 

"The Liberal party included some few who had been distinguished men 
under the monarchy, the greater portion of the legal and medical pro- 
fessions, or, in other words, the elite of the university, who had preferred 
those studies to that of theology or canons ; not so much as a means of 
support, as because they were almost the only careers open to those who 
rejected the ecclesiastical vocation. It also numbered many merchants 
and landed proprietors, supported by a numerous body composed of the 
more intelligent artizans and laborers. Their leaders were men of very 
decided democratical principles, of unquestionable ability, and, considering 
the school they were brought up in, and the influences that surrounded 


The Serviles consisted of heterogeneous classes, having no- 
thing in common, except their hatred of the Liberals. The 
nucleus of this organization were the soi-disant nobility, the 
spawn of the vice-regal courts, whose tendencies, in common 
with those of the beneficed clergy, with whom they were as- 
sociated, were " to oppose the education of the masses, to 
centralize and consolidate the civil power in the hands of the 
few," — in short, to establish any order of things which should 
secure their own complete predominance. To this combina- 
tion, the aristocrats, called " Sangres Azules," blue bloods^ 
brought proficiency in intrigue, no insignificant degree of 

them, they manifested no small amount of true patriotism and devoted- 
ness to their convictions; though, alas I in too many instances, stained 
with venaUty, and even with deeds of oppression and of blood. What 
they overthrew, and what they accomplished for the State, is honorable 
alike to their talents and to their sentiments ; and though the limits of a 
sketch will scarcely admit of the due appreciation of it, a cursory view of 
their achievements, taking into consideration the circumstances of the 
people and of the times, will probably excite more wonder, and certainly 
secure for them higher praise, than the victories of Alvarado." — Qospel in 
Central America, p. 124. 

"The Serviles, including the two extremes of society, the most refined 
and the most barbarous, linked together by their blind guides — the priests 
— ^were entirely led by the latter; among whom were many ignorant 
Spaniards, and some few men of ability, though, in this particular, they 
were far inferior to the Liberals. They, however, proved themselves to 
be thoroughly imbued with the spirit of their order and the genius of their 
system. They have ever acted upon the maxim that aU things were 
lawful which seemed to them expedient; and, notwithstanding their ap- 
parent unity, they too had their divisions, their mutual jealousies, their 
private ambitions, and their individual immoraUties; which, together with 
their common rapacity, were favorable to their opponents. And in 
general, if not universally, it will be found easy to trace to their intrigues 
the internal disorders of the social and political body, in each of the several 
states composing the republic ; and not a few of the past civil wars, and 
existing animosities between State and State, are also attributable to their 
influence as a class, or to the personal ambition and seditious conduct of 
individuals in it" — Ibid. p. 126. 


ability, considerable wealth, and the influences with which 
wealth IS associated. The priesthood brought not only 
wealth, a widely extended machinery, capable of being rapid- 
ly and effectively wielded, but also, what was of more impor- 
tance, numbers — adherents amongst the very people against 
whom they conspired, blind instruments of their will, whose 
concurrence was secured by traditional reverence for the 
Church, by deeply seated bigotry, and whose ignorance ren- 
dered them the easy victims of every artful appeal, espe- 
cially when made by men to whom they were accustomed to 
look as leaders. Containing such elements, with an ignorant 
and excitable people, unacquainted with their duties, and 
without a clear kno^edge of their prospective or immediate 
requirements, on the one hand, and a large and powerful 
faction, deadly hostile to every form of Republicanism, on 
the other, it was impossible for the Republic to remain in 
peace. In vain did the enlightened leaders of the liberal 
party labor to sustain public order. Their ancient foes sowed 
wide and deep the seeds of local discord, and by all possible 
means endeavored, but too successfully, to bring the Federal 
and State Governments in conflict. 

In this they were greatly assisted by some radical defects 
in the Constitution itself; which, in common perhaps with 
our own charter, had not defined with sufficient exactness the 
respective powers of the Slate and General Governments. 
Upon this point the Liberals themselves were divided, some 
favoring a large centralization of power in the General Gov- 
ernment, and others believing that the legitimate object of a 
federation is simply to efiect what the States individually 
are incapable of accomplishing, and nothing more. These 
diflferences, it will be seen in the sequel, were not without 
their influence in weakening the Liberal strength, and pre- 
cipitating the destruction of the Republic ! ^ 

' There were also, some collateral questions started, which, if not di- 
rectly, certainly indirectly, contributed to the same result Upon every 


With this necessary preliminary exposition, we proceed in 
our narration of events. From the first the Liberal cause 
was doomed to suffer from treachery. The Serviles had the 
social position and the wealth to tempt the ambition and 
purchase the concurrence, as well as the tact to flatter the 
vanity, of all those in position, who were open to such ap- 
peals. To propitiate, and imperceptibly to mould and direct, 
when they cannot crush, has been their uniform, and too 
often successful, policy. Gen. Arce, the President of the Re- 
public, was the first victim of their arts. ** Under the pretext 
of having secret information that the State authorities of 
Guatemala were plotting rebellion against the Federal Gov- 
ernment, he was induced to arrest the citizen Chief or Gov- 
ernor of the State, Jos6 Francisco Barrundia, one of the most 

subject of national policy which came up, the Serviles, very naturally, took 
such a course as should most effectually tend to distract and embarrass 
their opponents, without any regard to the principles of right or expe- 
diency which they might involve. The Constitution of the Republic, as 
we have already seen, not only liberated all the slaves in the country, but 
guarantied freedom to all who should enter its borders. It was not long 
before numbers of slaves from the British settlements at Belize fled with- 
in the territories of the Republic, and sought the protection of its laws. 
They were reclaimed, and their surrender peremptorily demanded, but by 
the Congress as peremptorily refused. The Serviles, in a body, advocated 
the surrender, and sided with the English in the proposed violation of the 
Constitution, and of the laws of humanity. From that moment the re- 
actionists were favored, not only by the British merchants and political 
agents resident in the country, but also aided and abetted by the author- 
ities ^t Belize, who undoubtedly reflected the disposition of the British 
cabinet The Serviles, when they attained to power, surrendered the 
slaves, and have ever since been identified with the British interests and 
schemes— even to the extent of vindicating the British territorial aggres- 
sions on their sister States! This relationship, at tliis moment, keeps the 
Servile minority — a small numerical minority — in power in Guatemala, and 
controls the whole policy of that dictatorship, called, with severe irony, 
"The Republic of Guatemala." 


able and active reformers in the country, while in the dis- 
charge of his oflBcial functions, in the House of the Govern- 
ment, and at once proceeded to disarm the civic militia." This 
outrage upon State sovereignty, to which no resistance was 
opposed, took place on the 6th of September, 1826, and from 
that period may be dated the terrible commotions to which 
the country was afterwards subjected. It was an arbitrary 
exercise of power, unwarranted by circumstances, in flagrant 
^aolation of the Constitution, and has consigned its perpetra- 
tors to eternal infamy. 

The Serviles were not slow in following up their success. 
The citizen Cerilio Flores, a man high in public esteem, was 
Vice Chief, or Lieutenant Governor, of Guatemala. At the 
date of this event, he was in the district of Quesaltenango, 
engaged in the discharge of his official duties. The inhabi- 
tants of this district were chiefly Indians, ignorant, and 
under the unqualified control of the priests. When the news 
of the arrest of the Governor reached there, a friar ascended 
the pulpit, in the principal town, on a market-day, and by 
his harangue so infuriated the populace against Flores, that 
they started in pursuit of him, and although he sought sanc- 
tuary in the church, they followed him thither, and slaugh- 
tered him at the very foot of the altar, literally rending his 
body in pieces, amidst cries of " Long live Guatemala! Death 
to the Republic 1" The proximate cause of the vindictive 
hostility of the monks, was the fact that, in the general levy 
of taxes for state purposes, the property of the convents had 
not been exempted ! And thus was the movement, started 
by the aristocrats, seconded by their allies, the priests I 

The violence exercised against the principal civil officers 
of Guatemala, was continued against all the inferior members 
of the Government, many of whom were imprisoned or 
assassinated, and the remainder compelled to seek safety in 
flight. The Liberals, taken by surprise, were at first unable 
to offer any resistance to these outrages. A number, never- 


theless, hastily got together, and under the lead of C!ol. 
Pierson, a West Indian Creole, reduced the murderers of 
Flores in Quesaltenango ; but, before they were able to unite 
their forces, for the rescue of Guatemala, were themselves 
attacked and dispersed, by troops ordered against them by 
the treacherous Arce. Under these auspices a new State 
Government was organized, consisting, it is needless to say, 
exclusively of the Serviles, and those in their interest. Don 
Mariano Aycinena, who had borne the title of Marquis 
under Spain, was made nominally chief, but practically 
dictator ; and wdth his administration, came in that detes- 
table system of political espionage and proscription, which 
has given such a bloody and barbarous cast to the political 
revolutions of the country. A poUtical inquisition was 
established, for summarily disposing of all persons guilty of 
entertaining opinions differing from those of the usurpers ! 
Its sessions were secret, and its decrees fell upon the aston- 
ished public with fearful rapidity. Men were condemned 
without hearing. To entertain liberal opinions, and possess 
ability, were enough to bring them under the ban of pro- 
scription, and consign them to prison and to death. The 
Liberal leaders were all outlawed, and Col. Pierson, one of the 
ablest of that party, who had returned to Guatemala, under 
promises of protection, was treacherously shot, beneath the 
walls of the cemetery ! Terrorism and Servilism went hand 
in hand.* 

Arce followed up his treason to the Eepublic, by convok- 
ing, on his own authority, a meeting of the General Congress ; 
but the events which we have related caused so general and 
profound an excitement, that no meeting took place. The 
acknowledged object of this convocation, was to annul the 
Constitution, and organize a central authority, or dictatorship, 

' Aycinena afiected the utmost piety, and previous to signing the war- 
rant of execution against Pierson, confessed himself and took the sacrfr- 
mcDt Fit preparation for an act of treachery and murder I 


which should at once blot out State independence. This was 
always a favorite project with the Servile party; which, 
throughout the country, emboldened by the successes of their 
friends in Guatemala, now created disturbances in Honduras 
and Nicaragua, and involved those states in civil war. San 
Salvador, true to the Republic, presented an undivided front. 
It repudiated the authority of Arce ; and, in the heat of the 
moment, an insuflScient detachment of troops marched upon 
the usurpers in Guatemala. They were met by such of the 
Federal troops as adhered to the President, and a body of Ser- 
vile soldiery, and driven back. Being in turn attacked, they 
repulsed their enemies in the most decisive manner, and fully 
sustained the position of the State. Close upon these events, 
Arce endeavored to pursue in Honduras the same p61icy of 
subverting the State Government, which had been so easily 
effected in Guatemala, but failed in the attempt. He was 
repelled : and, having partially suppressed the Servile insur- 
rections within its own limits, Honduras now united its forces 
with those of San Salvador. Nicaramia did the same. The 
detail of the insurrectionary struggles in the States, would be 
neither interesting nor profitable. Enough to say that they 
were bloody, and marked by those cruel and unrelenting 
features which* distinguish civil wars above all others, and 
make them most to be dreaded. 

The month of September, 1827, found the nominal head 
of the Republic wielding the forms of government, but 
sustained only by a portion of the Federal soldiery, and the 
Scrviles of Guatemala ; who, through terrorism, now held 
uncontrolled sway in that city, and of whom, in fact, Arce 
was himself only the instrument. The support which he and 
his Servile friends received in the other states, consisted only 
Qf local insurrections against the state authorities, under- 
taken without concert, and unproductive of any permanent 
impression. Upon the other hand, San Salvador unani- 
mously, and Nicaragua and Honduras by large majorities, 


were in open opposition to the men who had betrayed and 
subverted the Eepublic, and yet aflfected to be its representa- 
tives, but who were in reality only the masks of Servilism, 
and used to give a semblance of legality to treason. Costa 
Eica, separated by mountain wastes from the rest of the 
Confederacy, and insignificent in power, remained a passive 
and astonished spectator of these proceedings, without taking 
any part in the quarrel. . 

Between these two grand divisions, or parties, a desperate 
struggle now ensued; a struggle which was really but a 
prolongation of that which immediately succeeded the inde- 
pendence, for the same objects, but in which the Serviles 
had succeeded in introducing some new elements favorable 
to their views. Upon the 28th of September, the so-called 
Federal Army defeated the united forces of San Salvador 
and Honduras, at a place called Sabina Grande. But their 
triumph was brief. They were shortly after attacked in 
turn by a body of men from San Salvador and Nicaragua, 
and totally routed. 

This battle was the most important, in many respects, of 
any which had been fought in the country. Not in the im- 
mediate results of the victory to the Liberals, but because it 
brought forward a man, henceforth not only to become the 
beloved leader of the Liberal party, but the most conspicuous 
man of the country. That man was Francisco Morazan, 
to whose energy and skill, although a subordinate officer, 
that victory was mainly ascribed, and no doubt justly due. 
His appearance in public life put an entirely new aspect upon 
the face of affiiirs, and for a while restored the Eepublic, and 
revived the hopes of the friends of freedom. 





WEAKNESS. 1828—1830. 

Francisco Morazan, destined to stand in history as, in 
many respects the best, and in all the ablest man which 
Central America has yet produced, was born in Honduras in 
1799. His father was a Creole from one of the French 
West India islands, and his mother a lady of the city of 
Tegucigalpa in Honduras. His education, so far as it was 
attained in schools, was neither better nor more extensive than 
that of others in the same condition in life ; but he early 
evinced a quickness of apprehension and a thirst for know- 
ledge, which soon placed him, in this respect, considerably 
in advance of his countrymen. He was also early distin- 
guished for impetuosity of temper, associated with the 
greatest decision and perseverance of character, which, 
coupled with a free and manly bearing, and a frank and open 
manner, not only secured for him the love and respect of men, 
but qualified him to move and govern them. In 1824, he 
had risen to be Secretary General of Honduras, and subse- 
quently Chief or Governor of the State. Naturally of a mili- 
tary turn, he was not entirely content with civil position, 
and turned his attention successfully to martial affairs. He 
led the Liberal troops of Nicaragua in the battle to which 
we have referred, on which turned his future career, and for 
a time the destinies of the entire country. 


A series of sanguinary contests followed the affair of Sabina 
Grande, with varying success, but in which the Liberals fully 
held their own. On the 17th of December a fierce engage- 
ment took place at Santa Ana, in San Salvador, which, after 
severe loss on both sides, was terminated by a convention, 
providing that both armies should retire from the town. 
Cascaras, the Servile General, with the characteristic bad 
faith of his party, waited until the Liberals had fulfilled their 
part of the agreement, and then took possession of the city. 
This fraud was heralded as a triumph. The Serviles aug- 
mented their forces, and now boldly advanced into San Sal- 
vador, with the avowed object of reducing it to their control. 
Arce, depositing the oflSce which he still continued nominal 
ly to hold, in the hands of the Vice-President, Beltranena, 
joined the invading column. The opposing armies met, not 
far jfrom the city of San Salvador, and after a prolonged 
contest, the Liberals, under the command of Col. Merino, 
being much inferior in numbers, were defeated with great 
loss — ^the victors giving no quarter, and mercilessly slaugh- 
tering the wounded. The whole affair better deserves the 
name of a massacre, than a battle. These proceedings, as a 
matter of course, led to retaliations when the opportunity 
offered; and thus it was, that Servilism still further contri- 
buted to give to w|ir, in Central America, those barbarous 
features which have since so often horrified all civilized 

The victors laid immediate siege to the city of San Salva- 
dor, but were repulsed. Operations were, nevertheless, con- 
tinued ; city after city fell into their hands; and in the month 
of June, 1828, it appeared as if the entire State was subdued. 
A convention was signed by the State Government, agreeing 
that San Salvador should be occupied by the invading forces, 
and that Arce should call a Congress in the town of Santa 
Ana. Of course it was not expected that this would be a 
constitutional Congress, or an independent body, but merely 

VOL. II. 51 


a set of instraments ready to register blindly the decrees of 
Arce and the Servile leaders in Guatemala. 

The news of this agreement or surrender, so outraged the 
sentiments of the people of the city of San Salvador, that 
they simultaneously rose in arms, made prisoners of the 
Federal troops garrisoning the city, deposed the Govern- 
ment, and organized provisional authorities in their place, 
by whom the war was renewed with augmented fury. This 
popular demonstration was promptly seconded by Gen. 
Morazan, at the head of the Liberal army of Honduras, who 
had just succeeded in putting down the reactionary move- 
ments in that State. He utterly defeated the invaders in his 
first encounter with them, and, following up his successes 
with unparalleled vigor, in less than two months captured or # 
completely dispersed them. Arce fled to Guatemala, and 
endeavored to resume his nominal authority ; but the Vice- 
President refused to surrender it, and the popular tide setting 
against both him and his Servile adherents, he found himself 
no longer safe, even in Guatemala, and made a precipitate 
flight into Mexico — whence, it will shortly be seen, he sub- 
sequently endeavored to invade the country of which he had 
been the chief magistrate. 

Morazan having completely restored the Liberals to power, 
in San Salvador, now advanced upon tl^ Serviles in Guate- 
mala. Their army destroyed, their revenues exhausted, and 
incapable of resistance, they sought to evade their impending 
fate by pursuing a temporizing policy. They proposed at 
first an armistice, and then made overtures of peace; but 
meantime the people in Quesaltenango repudiated their 
aut^iority, and the department became involved in a civil 
war of the bloodiest character. The Antigua, or city of old 
Guatemala, also rose in arms and pronounced against the 
Servile Government. To crown their distress, Morazan, at 
the head of 2000 Honduras and Salvador troops, now marched 
into their territories. After several contests, in which he 


was generally successfal, on the 15tli of March, 1829, he 
appeared before the city and demanded its surrender. The 
Serviles in despair again sought to temporize and gain time. 
They proposed a treaty, oflFering to recall all the Liberals 
whom they had exiled, and even to share the government 
with them, and to restore the former order of things. Mora- 
zan, convinced of their insincerity, after listening to their 
propositions, cut short all discussion by assaulting the city, 
which he soon carried at the point of the bayonet. To his 
honor be it said, notwithstanding that the outrages of the 
Serviles were still recent, and the blood of the Liberals they 
had slaughtered was scarcely dry, both life and property 
were respected. 

The Servile authority was at once superseded, all the 
exiles recalled, and the survivors of the former government 
again established in the places which they had filled, at the 
time of the Servile insurrection. The Federal Congress, 
dissolved in 1826, was also assembled, and provisionally 
organized by Nicholas Espinoza, Senior Senator, as Presi- 
dent. Its first act was to decree extraordinary honors to 
Gen. Morazan ; his portrait was ordered to be hung in the 
Representative Hall, and a gold medal to be struck in com- 
memoration of the reestablishment of the Republic. 

The Congress next proceeded to the election of President 
in place of the absconding Arcc. The choice fell upon Jos^ 
Francisco Barrudia, who, as we have seen, was Governor 
of Guatemala, at the time of the treason of Arce, by whom he 
had been seized and imprisoned. It next proceeded to 
declare all laws enacted and proceedings adopted under 
Arce's authority, from the 6th of April, 1826, to the 12th of 
April, 1829, unauthorized and illegal, and the government 
which had existed during that period, a usurpation. This 
done, it applied itself to the regulation of the affairs of the 
country, which three years of anarchy had plunged into the 
direst confusion. 


Thus passed the Eepublic through its second trial; its 
second terrible baptism of blood, unfortunately not the last! 
The scattered Liberals now returned to their homes. Many, 
during their exile, had visited the United States and Europe, 
and now came back with new and enlarged ideas upon all 
subjects connected with government, and with much practi- 
cal information, which they were prepared to devote to the 
good of the country, and the cause for which they had suf- 
fered so much. 

It will not be useless to revert here, for a single moment, 
to the condition of aflBiirs in Guatemala during the period of 
Servile ascendancy. While in the possession of power, the 
leaders of that faction did not direct their efforts exclusively 
to the proscription of the patriots, or the extension of their 
control over the remaining States of the confederacy. They 
were, in other respects, true to their instincts and antecedents. 
No sooner had they intrenched themselves in station — the 
old noblesse or aristocracy, as a matter of course filling the 
executive offices — than the church required the fulfillment 
of the terms of the reactionary coalition. But the aristocrats, 
flushed with success, with characteristic bad faith, slighted 
their associates in the national treason, and consented only 
to the partial restoration of the prerogatives which the Lib- 
erals had swept away. The contest with San Salvador and 
the other States had created great excitement, unfavorable 
to the exercise of priestly influence on the popular mind ; and 
had also called into the field considerable armies, which were 
also under the control of the secular arm of the coalition. 
The adherents of the Church, whatever their feelings of dis- 
appointment and chagrin, found it politic to submit to what 
they could not remedy, and to put up with a part of what 
they required and had a right to expect, rather than break 
openly with their treacherous Mends. They had the wisdom 
to bide their time, and held themselves in readiness to make 
the most of coming events. When, therefore, the Servile 


armies met with reverses, and the aristocratic leaders be- 
gan to lose the material elements of their power, and to 
grasp at every means of restoring and strengthening it, they 
made unconditional compliance with the direct and implied 
terms of the coalition, the price of their continued adherence 
to the declining fortunes of the aristocracy. The secular 
leaders, restrained by no c^siderations of principle, yielded 
to every demand, and signalized the last hours of their 
wretched sway, by a complete reversal of all the measures of 
equality and amelioration which had previously been adopted. 
With an insanity, which distinguishes factions from legiti- 
mate parties, they sought to deface and ruin what they could 
no longer control. Trembling on the verge of overthrow, 
they not only reversed the measures of the Liberals, but en- 
acted the severest laws against religious dissent ; decreed the 
burning of all books not authorized by the church ; and 
took steps for the rec^tablishment of the Inquisition. They 
had already, in defiance of the constitution and laws, surren- 
dered the slaves demanded by the British at Belize, and by 
this, and other acts of subserviency, secured the support of 
the English authoritiies there and at home. They forbade 
all reunions for whatsoever purpose, established a rigid censor- 
ship of the press, a body of paid gjjies — ^in short, organized 
a military despotism. These acts were of course annulled, 
upon the triumph of Morazan, but were again put in force by 
the Servile party upon its accession to power in Guatemala, 
in 1841, and are still in existence — monuments of a barbarous 
age, and of the tyranny which, in that unfortunate State, 
disgraces the name of a Republic. 

A Central American writer has sketched, with great truth 
and rhetorical vigor, the rise of Morazan, and the measures 
which followed the reestablishment of the Republic. 

"At this time appeared a man, raised up by Heaven as the 
Savior of his Country. Liberty girded him with her sword, 
and placed him at the head of the civil body. He knew the 


men, the people, and the revolution. He appeared inspired 
for the country and for glory ; opposition disappeared before 
him ; he advanced from victory to victory, and bearing aloft 
the Constitution, entered the capital with it in his hands.* 
He again established the fundamental law, and gathered 
together the scattered authorities. Not a drop of blood was 
shed except on the field of battle? The Serviles disappeared 
from the' public scene. The shackled press was liberated, 
and opened to every publication not obnoxious to common 
decency. In short, order, the Constitution, and the Repub- 
lic reappeared. The patriotism, the valor, the intellect of 
one man had worked the change, and that man was 
Morazan ! 

" What, in this epoch, and in the qidet which followed 
their triumph, was the conduct of the Liberals ? Not only 
was the enlightened policy of the Republic revived, and its 
previously established institutions again put into operation, 
but new measures of amelioration and popular good adopted. 
Although perfectly conscious that the reactionary faction 
was engaged in conspiracies, yet confiding in the popular 
honesty, no systems of espionage were encouraged. The 
utmost differences of opinion, and the widest latitude in ex- 
pressing them, by word^^r pen, were permitted. Entire re- 
ligious toleration was proclaimed, and equal protection to all 
forms of worship. The right of suffrage was extended to all 
adult males, whatever their color or condition. Individual 
rights received the most earnest guaranties, including the es- 
tablishment of the principle of presumptive innocence in 
all cases of criminal accusations, habeas corpus^ and trial by 
jury. The penal code was reformed, and made most equable. 
Public education also received the utmost attention ; a well- 
organized system of instruction, capable of the widest ex- 
pansion, was devised, under which schools, endowed and 

' This is a literal fact; a copy of the Constitution was carried, with the 
flag of the Republic, at the head of the army. 


free to all, speedily sprung up, and brought forward a class 
of youths, better instructed aftd better disciplined than any 
which had preceded them. Nor were the means of material 
progress neglected. Roads and other works of public 
utility were projected and undertaken ; a survey of the 
Isthmus of Nicaragua authorized and executed ; and a con- 
tract for the opening of an interoceanic ship canal was signed, 
on favorable terms, with the king of the Netherlands." 

But while engaged in these beneficent works of reform 
and improvement, the government could not be wholly deaf 
to the popular demand for a vindication of the outraged 
constitution and laws, in the punishment of the men who 
had overthrown the Republic. In conformity with the 
general sentiment, on the 22d of August, 1829, the Federal 
Congress passed an act of banishment against the refugee 
Arce, and the officers which had adhered to him; as also 
against the late dictator of Guatemala, and those who had 
been associated with him in his administration. It also re- 
quired that these men should return to the treasury the 
amount which they had appropriated on account of their 
salaries, and surrender a third part of their property to 
repair the damages which they had occasioned, and also re- 
fund the subsidies which they had exacted during the war. 
However demanded by strict justice, this latter step was no 
doubt impolitic, as giving the color of precedent to a system 
of confiscation, which, in the subsequent disturbances, was 
practiced, to a greater or less extent, by all parties. Legal 
proceedings were also instituted against the murderers of 
Flores and his fellow victims, in Quesaltenango ; but as they 
involved a large number of persons, they were not pushed 
to their final issue. 

While conceding thus much to the popular demand for 
justice, the Liberals nevertheless pursued the most kindly 
and conciliatory conduct towards the great body of their op- 
ponents. Such as were possessed of ability, and thought to 


have a general patriotic disposition, were freely called to fill 
ofl&ces of trust and responsibility. No obstacles were inter- 
posed to prevent all who chose to do so, from rallying around 
the standard of th«r country. If this line of conduct, this 
excessive liberality, was not a theoretical, it was certainly, 
as will be seen in the sequel, under all the circumstances, a 
practical, error. The Serviles generally were incapable of 
appreciating the generosity with which they were treated, 
and accepted positions without relinquishing their original 

Contemporaneously with these events a blow was struck at 
the Church, from which it has not, and can never recover. 
Overestimating the popular bigotry, and undaunted by the 
overthrow of the party with which they were allied, the 
priesthood commenced anew to plot against the Republic. 
They well comprehended that their influence and power 
must decline, as the principles of the Liberals became dif- 
fused, and the Republic itself consolidated. But their in- 
trigues, incited by the archbishop, Ramon Casaus, in person, 
did not escape the vigilance of Morazan. Invested with 
plenary power for contingencies like this, and understanding 
fully the impossibility of reconciling the principles of the 
Church with those of the Republic, Mozaran perfected his ar- 
rangements for an effective blow, which fell on the night of 
the 11th of July, when the archbishop, and all the heads of 
the Dominican, Franciscan. Capuchin, and other monkish or- 
ders, were simultaneously seized, and escorted by soldiers to 
the port of Isabal, and thence shipped abroad. The remain- 
ing members of these orders were also summarily ordered to 
leave the country. This decisive step was followed by the 
suppression of all the convents by the State Government of 
Guatemala, and the appropriation of their property to pur- 
poses of education, and the use of the public charitable insti- 
tutions. ** The convent of the Dominicans was made a model 
prison, on the plan of those of the United States ; another 


was appropriated to the Lancasterian Normal School; a 
third became a public hospital, and the remainder were con- 
secrated to other useful purposes. The nunneries were thrown 
open, and the inmates allowed to go where they pleased ; 
but all females were thenceforth forbidden to take the veil." 
The Federal Congress, on the 7th of September following, not 
only ratified this act, but abolished all religious orders through- 
out the Republic This action was speedily confirmed by all 
the States. It also declared the archbishop a traitor, con- 
fiscated his property, and banished him forever from the 
country, to which he never returned. Other measures of 
like tendency, including the prohibition of Papal bulls, fol- 
lowed in rapid succession ; and finally, in 1832, the laws re- 
cognizing the Catholic creed as the faith of the country were 
abrogated, and not only tolerance to all creeds and forms of 
worship proclaimed, but entire religious freedom uncooidi- 
ditionally decreed, and ratified by the several States^ Subse- 
quently the Serviles endeavored to reverse all these en- 
lightened measures, and in Guatemala actually went through 
the form of their repeal ; but it is contended that^ emanating 
from the Republic, and adopted by the States, they cannot 
be affected by any local legislation, and still lemain the su- 
preme law of the land. The effect of these measures upon 
the popular mind, and the present positipooi of the Churchy I 
hj^ve attempted to indicate in auother plaocis * 

On the first of April of this year, the Slate of Costa Rica, 
by her geographical position separated from tho rest of the 
Republic, embarrassed by the anomalous position of public 
affairs, — the confederation for the tim^e being practically dis- 
solved, — and desirous of avoiding collisions in which,, from 
numerical weakness^ she could no* interfeie with any effect,-, 
peaceably declared her separate indepen(tence, apd, adopting: 
the policy of strict neutrality, fcept qui&tly ou her courpe. 
When the Republic was i^ain established, in January, 16S1> 

* See NarratiY^, chap*, xxx. 

VOL, II. 52 


she resumed her former relations, as one of the States of the 
Confederacy. She thus escaped all participation in the 
troubles which followed the insurrection of the Serviles. The 
tacit admission of the right of State secession, involved in 
this unopposed act, although the result of circumstances, and 
not of deliberation, had nevertheless a disastrous influence 
upon the permanence of the Confederacy. The respective 
powers of the State and General Governments, as we have 
already said, were not clearly defined at the outset, and when 
they afterwards became subjects of discussion, this precedent 
came in to overrule an impartial decision upon them. 

The close of this year, as a whole fraught with results so 
favorable to the Liberal cause, and satisfactory to the friends 
of Republican institutions, was not wholly imobscured by 
clouds of evil portent. The revenues of Honduras were foimd 
inadequate to the support of the State Government, how- 
ever economically administered. The State had also incurred 
considerable debts in its efforts to restore the Republic, and 
demands were made upon it which it could not meet 
Under these circumstances, the State Legislature decreed a 
property tax, which, though trifling, was nevertheless uni- 
versally resisted. It could not be collected. Similar attempts 
were made in San Salvador and Guatemala, with precisely 
the same results. Among the causes which most powerfully 
influenced the jyopulace in behalf of independence, was the 
relief which it promised from the exactions which they had 
so long endured from Spain. This relief had been experi- 
enced under the first epoch of the Republic, and before the 
Serviles had distracted the country and crippled and destroyed 
its resources. Starting unembarrassed, had it not been for 
these men, it would have continued so — free from debt, and 
with a surplus revenue to be devoted to the public good. 
And it was not among the least of the evils which that fac- 
tion entailed upon the country, — ^a canker at its vitals, — ^an 
exhausted treasury and inadequate revenues. The necessity 


of taxation, incomprehensible to the ignorant, weaned them 
from their attachment to the cause fcr which they had before 
been enthusiastic, and from friends to the Republic, con- 
verted them, if not into open enemies, into discontented citi- 
zens. It operated more eflfectuallj than Servile intrigue, to 
bring about the overthrow of the confederacy. The govern- 
ment, from the consideration of measures for the public good, 
was absorbed in devising means to keep up the public credit ; 
its resources crippled, it was unable to carry into effect the 
improvements which were imperiously demanded by the con- 
dition of the country ; the construction of roads was sus- 
pended, and the public schools, without adequate support, 
became languishing. In the hope of better days, the despe- 
rate resort of a loan was adopted. Money, at ruinous rates, 
was procured from England, and with it, more fatal to the 
peace, prosperity, and integrity of the country than any other 
adverse circumstance, came the extension of British influ- 
ence, and pretexts for British interference in the domestic 
and general relations of the States, — disputes, blockades, and 
territorial aggressions, — a black catalogue of unwarranted 
exactions, and a general policy justly liable to be stigmatized 
as piratical. 

These opposing conditions must not be overlooked in the 
recital of events which followed. They will serve to break 
the force of the censure which might otherwise be cast upon 
the Liberal leaders, and explain what otherwise could only 
be regarded as the results of political blindness, and moral 
obliquity, not to say folly and corruption. 



The year 1830 found the Eepublic in peace, the Liberal 
party in undisturbed ascendancy, and devoting its energies to 
the promotion of the general prosperity. A treaty had been 
negotiated with the United States, and a Chargd d' Affaires 
from that Republic now resided in the country. England, 
although she had recognized the independence of Central 
America, and accredited public agents to its government, had 
as yet entered into no treaty relations with it ; she now, how- 
ever, proposed the negotiation of a treaty of amity and com- 
merce, which proposition the Liberal Government, notwith- 
standing the irritation caused, some years before, by the per- 
emptory and unauthorized demand for the surrender of the 
runaway slaves from Belize, was disposed to meet But one 
obstacle interposed, and its real magnitude was apparent to 
Morazan. This was the retention of an indefinite extent of 
country around the mahogany establishment of Belize, by the 
British authorities, whose only claim to a foothold of any kind 
was a treaty with Spain, permitting English subjects to cut 
woods within certain limits, but with the express reservation 
of the sovereign territorial rights of the Spanish crown, and 
with an equally distinct preclusion from making any perma- 
nent establishments. This territory constituted part of the 
kingdom of Guatemala, and, with the overthrow of the royal 


authority, accrued of right to the new Eepublic, with whom 
it was the duty of England to treat for the prolongation of 
the privileges conceded by Spain. But instead of doing so, 
the British Government availed itself of the circumstance to 
arbitrarily extend the limits of her quasi colony, without, in 
any manner, recognizing the Eepublican authorities, and in 
flagrant disregard of international law. This had not been 
overlooked by the Liberals in their first period of power; but 
before they were able to determine, on a hne of policy the 
Serviles secured ascendancy. Falling naturally into the Eng- 
lish interest, they practically acquiesced in the usurpation. 
Now, however, when England proposed a treaty, the Gov- 
ernment, under the advice of Morazan, acceded to the pro- 
posal, with the single proviso that its very first article should 
define both the limits and the time, within which England 
should be permitted to exercise the privileges it had pre- 
viously enjoyed, under permission from the Spanish crown. 
Having already determined upon the unconditional retention 
of Belize, and looking greedily forward to territorial exten- 
sion on the coast, the British Government was completely 
astounded by the decision of the Eepublic, upon whose 
weakness it had predicated all of its ambitious designs. 
Bightly regarding Morazan as the man who principally sus- 
tained the Government in this line of policy, the British 
agents in the country, and the authorities of the adjacent 
British dependencies, thenceforward made him the personal 
object of their hostility. They plotted with the Serviles 
against his authority, openly furnished arms to discontented 
factions, and when he subsequently came to the head of 
affairs, in all ways opposed and embarrassed his administra- 
tion. Their hatred in the end became inflamed to such a 
degree, as to blind them to all considerations of duty, and 
betrayed them into the commission of acts revolting alike to 
decency and to humanity. For, incredible as it may seem, it 
was a British Consul-Gcneral, who, when the accomplished wife 


of the absent President, flying from a brutal soldiery, sought 
the protection of his flag, not only refused her an asylum, but 
repulsed her, — a woman, a mother, unfriended, and alone, — 
rudely repulsed her from his door I 

As soon as the position of the Republic in respect to the 
territory of Belize became known at that place, the British 
authorities assumed an arrogant and offensive tone towards 
the Republic. As a practical illustration of their contempt 
for its power, in a spirit of petty malice and revenge, they 
made a descent upon the large and fertile island of Roatan, 
on the coast of Honduras, and belonging to that State. They 
forcibly expelled the local authorities, and took possession of 
the island. The Federal Government made a formal com- 
plaint against this act of piracy, and it was disavowed by the 
British Cabinet. Yet the island has recently been seized 
again, by the same unscrupulous hands, and the former vio- 
lence adduced by the British Government itself, as a proof of 
territorial right ! At this time, and for similar reasons, pre- 
tensions were set up on the Mosquito shore, — ^pretensions 
originating in frauds, and urged in a spirit and by acts worthy 
only of the outlaws and pirates who established and gave 
a name to Belize. 

The two years which followed the restoration of the Repub- 
lic, as we have said, in spite of every obstacle, witnessed con- 
siderable advances, industrial and commercial, legislative and 
educational. Two new universities were established, one in 
San Salvador, another in Leon. The culture of cochineal 
was introduced, with great profit, into Guatemala ; and that 
of coffee, ^vith equal advantage, into Costa Rica. The culture 
of other staples was revived and extended in the remaining 
States. That of Indigo, which in San Salvador had fallen to 
not more than 3000, now rose to upwards of 7,000 bales 

But it is not to be supposed that the Serviles were idle 
during this period, or had accommodated themselves to the 


existing order of things. They were silently but actively 
engaged in plots against the Government, in which those 
placed in position, by the mistaken generosity of the Liberals, 
were most conspicuous. Favors undeservedly conferred, 
never fail to secure the deadliest hostility of the recipient. 
At the close of 1831 the treason was ripe. Arce, the exiled 
President, invaded the Altos at the head of a hireling force 
from Mexico; Dominguez, a Servile officer, who had pro- 
fessed to be reconciled with the Republic, and had received 
a military command, headed a simultaneous insurrection in 
Ilonduras, where he was seconded by Ramon Guzman, gov- 
ernor of the Castle of Omoa. Arce, however, was met and 
routed, and Dominguez captured and shot. Guzman, at 
Omoa, finding himself without support, and relying upon the 
strength of the fort which he commanded, to enable him to 
hold out, raised the flag of Spain, and sent to Cuba for relief 
Meantime, however, the fortress was besieged and taken by 
the Federal troops, and the Spanish flag, tied to the tail of a 
mule, was dragged through the streets of the town. In 
Nicaragua, also, whether by concert with the Serviles or 
otherwise is not known, the emissaries of Spain succeeded in 
creating some disturbances, but they were speedily sup- 

This easy overthrow of the Serviles inspired the Liberals 
with great contempt for the power of that faction, and by 
removing all apparent danger from that source, destroyed one 
effective bond of union amongst those devoted to liberal 
ideas. It is always unsafe to undervalue opposition ; and it 
was the more so, in this instance, from the circumstance that 
wide differences of opinion prevailed amongst the Liberals, 
in respect to certain great measures of policy. These dif- 
ferences, in the presence of common danger, had been 
sacrificed to the common good. But now they came con- 
spicuously forward; and as collision, however slight, always 


generates feelings, and often begets hostility, the hitherto 
undivided Liberals became separated into two parties, be- 
tween whom the breach widened daj by day. The grounds 
of difference, originating at the time of the adoption of the 
Constitution, I have already briefly indicated. Some favored 
a strong General Government, which should be as clear a 
representation of nationality as a monarchy itself while others 
contended for the principle of State sovereignty, and a 
Federal Government which should confine its functions to the 
management of foreign relations, and the maintenance of 
harmonious intercourse between the States. These pardes 
were called, respectively, Centralists, and Federalists, — desig- 
nations, which, for a time, displaced those of Serviles and 
Liberals. Under the disguise of these names, the Serviles 
often exerted themselves to effect what they could not openly 

The practical results of these differences, and the vague- 
ness of the Constitution upon the points at issue, were disas- 
trous. The State of San Salvador — devoted to the Kepub- 
lic, but jealous of its own prerogatives, and entertaining 
a strong feeling of rivalry towards Guatemala, which the 
general Servile tendencies of that State had converted into a 
feeling bordering on hostility, and believing the President 
more devoted to its interests than those of the nation, — in a 
moment of excitement, rashly vindicated its notions of State 
Rights, by seceding from the Confederation. Instead of per- 
mitting the State time to reflect on her folly, and to return 
quietly within the bosom of the nation, against, it is believed, 
the better judgment of Morazan, measures of coercion were 
resorted to, successfully for the moment, but most unfor- 
tunately in the end. For the first time Liberals were ar- 
rayed against Liberals, and the animosity of blood was begot- 
ten. With ill-suppressed exultation, the Serviles lent them- 
selves to fan the flames of discord, and widen the opening 


breach. They sided with one party or the other, according 
to circumstances, and as it might augment their ability for 


Morazan, having, meantime, been elected President, now 
committed the capital error of assuming the Executive power 
in San Salvador, and the responsibility of filling its adminis- 
trative offices. Whatever may have been the exigencies of 
the case, the act stands an absolute usurpation of power, 
incapable of justification. The most that can be said, by 
way of apology is that, Morazan's whole career absolves him 
from the suspicion of bad motives, and favors the belief, that 
he acted from a patrotic, but mistaken sense of expediency. 
As might have been anticipated, the States Eights parties of 
Honduras and Nicaragua, in consequence of these irregulari- 
ties, pointing to the former unrebuked action of Costa Eic% 
also decreed their separation. Costa Rica again did the same. 
The Federal Government saw its error, and instead of at once 
retracing its steps, stood surprised and irresolute. San Sal- 
vador, availing itself of this irresolution, again declared its 
separation, and the Republic suddenly presented the spec- 
tacle of total disruption. But this was more in appearance 
than in reality ; for the acts of separation were, after all, only 
conditional. The States regarded them as measures necessary 
to procure a better understanding of the true relations of 
state and nation; and not as a repudiation of the principle of 
confederation, to which they still adhered. But they did 
not perceive or comprehend that every violence of this kind 
weakened the popular attachment to that principle, and 
established precedents for every subsequent insubordination. 
A people familiarized to blood becomes cruel ; a frequent 
appeal to measures of final resort unhinges all systems of 
government, and opens wide the gates of anarchy. Seces- 
sion, for purposes of coercion, degenerated into a measure of 
expediency, resorted to on any occasion, and on the paltriest 

VOL. II. 53 


of pretexts ; it sapped the foundations of the Eepublic, and 
finally overthrew it. 

Euin seemed impending over the country; the Senriles 
were exultant, and again began to display a threatening 
front. The Liberals, suddenly roused to a sense of their 
danger, paused in their career of madness, and began to 
retrace their steps. The States relinquished their antago- 
nistic positions, and resumed their place in the Confederacy, 
and the Federal Government issued writs for the election of 
a new Congress, which should adjust all differences. But a 
new element of discord now appeared, to collect again the 
dispersing gloom. Some of the smaller States, jealous of 
Guatemala, which was greatly superior in extent and popu- 
tion to any other, and consequently possessed of greater 
influence in the National Congress, demanded that the States 
should have an equal voice in that body. This was a vagary 
which had sprung up during the States Eights agitation, and 
its recognition was demanded as a peremptory condition of 
proceeding with the elections. The Republican leaders, 
whose eyes were now fully opened to the perils which sur- 
rounded them, and capable of any sacrifices, finally induced 
Guat(}mala to assent to this unwtirrantable requisition. But 
though some of the States proceeded with their elections, yet 
it was so generally obvious, that no such compromise, or 
rather sacrifice of rights, could be satisfactory or permanent, 
that the matter dropped, or was superseded by subsequent 
events ; so that the proposed Congress never met. All com- 
promises involving any surrender of principle (and almost 
all of necessity do) are wrong, and whatever their immediate 
result, invariably productive of greater evil in the end than 
they are designed to remedy. 

Other measures were now advanced for securing a good 
understanding amongst the States, and harmony with the 
Federal Government. A revision of the Constitution was 


proposed, and commissioners were named to prepare a pro- 
ject to be submitted to the country. To obviate the jealousy 
entertained of Guatemala, the seat of the Federal Govern- 
ment was transferred to the city of San Salvador ; and, in 
imitation of the United States, an area extending ten leagues 
around the city was erected into a Federal District. But 
while this removed the Government further from the centre 
of Servile influence, and thus far conciliated the remaining 
States, it alienated and embittered the people of Guatemala, 
whose feelings of resistance were further roused by the propo- 
sition, subsequently carried into eflfect, of dividing that State 
into two or three distinct sovereignties. The general effect 
of these measures, actual and proposed, was to produce pres- 
ent quiet. The final accommodation of all differences was 
tacitly intrusted to the future, and meantime affairs went on 
very nearly as they had done before the mania of secession 
had seized upon the country. Attention was again devoted 
to measures of general good. The act of Religious Emanci- 
pation, elsewhere referred to, was now adopted, and ecclesi- 
astical tithes, before reduced one-half, were now entirely 
abolished. The penal code of Spain, with some modifications, 
had been continued, but was corrupt and unwieldy. The 
ex-President, Barrundia, devoted himself to its reform. He 
translated the enlightened code of one of our own country- 
men, Chancellor Livingston, which, with slight changes, was 
substituted for that of Spain. He moved the establishment 
of trial by jury; and it was adopted first in San Salvador, 
and very soon afterwards in Nicaragua and Guatemala. But 
strange as it may appear, this measure, elsewhere regarded 
as essential to the popular security, here met with popular 
opposition. It was an innovation not comprehended by the 
people at large, — it fell gradually into disuse, and was finally 

The spirit which animated the Liberals, at this time, may be 
partially inferred fi-om the fact that the Federal Congress 


cedes the storm. A wide conspiracy amongst the aborigines 
was organized in San Salvador, which first betrayed itself in 
overt acts on the 24th of July, 1832, when an Indian named 
Anastacio Aquino, a native of the Indian pueblo of Santiago 
Nunualco, proclaimed an Indian government, and at the head 
of a body of his adherents, proceeded to attack the neighbor- 
ing towns ; putting to death indiscriminately, all foreigners, 
Creoles, and meztizos. Hfe,was, however, soon overcome by 
the troops of the government, in an attack on San Vicente, 
and, with his followers, captured and shot. Conceiving that 
the conspiracy involved the entire Indian population, the 
Government at first resolved upon their general extermina- 
tion, but better counsels prevailed, or the attempt was 
regarded as too hazardous ; at any event, it was not under- 

The part assumed by the priests in these disturbances was 
punished by a suppression of all the^iesto^ and saints' days of 
the ecclesiastical calendar, except Sunday and five holidays. 
The numerous /&to5 had long been regarded as serious inter- 
ruptions of general industry. " This was, however, one of 
the measures against which the Serviles were enabled to 
avail themselves of the popular feeling, so as to direct it 
against the Liberals. The cry of heresy and profanity had 
long been raised against the acts of the latter, but it never 
told so eflFectually, even upon the most fanatical, as when 
their own pleasures, or rather their vices and excesses, were 
interfered with." 

The year 1834, was signalized by further collisions between 
the State and Federal authorities in San Salvador, in which 
the latter were successful, and by some disturbances, result- 
ing from personal ambition, in Nicaragua. Eariy in 1835, 
Costa Eica also, although containing less than 100,000 
inhabitants, became involved in troubles, occasioned, it would 
seem, by the jealousy, existing between the old capital, Car- 
tago, and the new capital, San Josd, but in which the former 


availed itself of the pretext of extending the right of suffirage, 
limited by the Constitution to landholders, to secure the 
popular feeling in support of its designs. It is, nevertheless, 
alleged, by the native historians, that the priests here, as 
elsewhere, were the prime instigators of the movement ; and 
there is too much reason to believe, that they were ready to 
avail themselves of any ground of excitement, to weaken and 
embarrass the ruling party in the^State and Nation. 

Early in 1835, the Federal Congress, having, meanwhile, 
removed its sittings to San Salvador, promulgated the new 
Constitution reported by the committee, to which the task of 
framing it had been delegated. It was based upon the 
instrument of 1824, with many liberal and equable modifi- 
cations ; but it encountered, as a matter of course, the undi- 
vided hostility of the Serviles, and the opposition of a con- 
siderable part of the Liberals, and was rejected by every 
State except Costa Eica. The respective States proposed 
different, and in most cases, irreconcilable reforms. 

A period of suspense ensued ; the Liberals were greatly 
embarrassed ; and as no progress had been made towards the 
establishment of a settled government, the whole of the year 
1836, in the language of a writer on that period, may be 
"compared to the intervals between the eruptions of the 
active volcanoes, which form so apt an emblem of the people 
of the country where they are situated." The Grovemment 
was not, however, wholly inactive. It had early been con- 
vinced of the necessity of increasing the European element 
in the population of the coimtry, and had adopted various 
measures, looking to that result. The Constituent Assembly 
had taken action upon the subject, and the Federal Congress 
had subsequently, not only removed every obstacle, religious 
and otherwise, but o£fered large encouragement to emigration. 
This year witnessed the first practical results of this policy. 
An extensive scheme of colonization was started in England, 
under the comprehensive name of " The Eastern Coast of 


Central America Commercial and Agricultural Company." 
It was organized under the terms of a general grant, which 
provided that a certain extent of territory, and a variety of 
privileges should accrue to any company which might, within 
four years, colonize two hundred families, and within ten 
years, one thousand. The locality selected was Boca Nueva, 
Department of Vera Paz, State of Guatemala. The projected 
town was called Abbotsville, and the name is still to be 
found on the maps of that period. But the managers of the 
company were, for the most part, unprincipled speculators, 
and although a considerable number of individuals were sent 
out, and some $200,000 expended, the whole project fell 
through. The emigrants were of the worst class,- and the 
circumstances of location and climate were fatal to the 
success of any scheme, however well devised or supported. 
Many died, others returned, or left for the West Indies, and 
a few penetrated into the interior. At the end of two years 
nothing remained of the attempted colony, except a small 
clearing, half occupied by graves, and a few decaying 

As observed by Mr. Dunlap, " It seems a most singular 
infatuation in Europeans, to attempt colonizing on pestiferous 
shores, under a burning sun, where no native of a temperate 
region, not even those of the interior of the same country, 
can enjoy tolerable health. Had they, instead, secured lands 
on the delightful banks of the Lake of Nicaragua, or on the 
table lands of Guatemala or Costa Rica, with a communi- 
cation to the nearest port, the result might have been very 
different ; but the failure of most colonies lately founded, no 
doubt arose from their being undertaken by people, strangers 
to the country and the climate where they were to be estab- 
lished ; and it is to be hoped, that if such schemes are again 
undertaken, persons acquainted with the country will pre- 
viously be consulted." 

This attempt, on the part of British adventurers, to estab- 



We are now approacliing the mqet disastrous period of 
Central American history, the reign of anarchy and blood, 
when the worst elements of civil and social discord were let 
loose upon that devoted country. We have seen how Ser 
vilirfm, failing in its open assaults on the Eepublic, descend- 
ed to every form of conspiracy and treason ; how the strength 
and prestige of the General Government had been weakened 
and destroyed by bad precedent, and by mistaken policy to- 
wards the States ; how the great Liberal party had not only 
become divided, but its members embittered against each 
other; how British influence had been arrayed against the 
actual government, and the liberal tendencies of the country ; 
and how the power of the Church, although broken, was yet 
madly exerted to foment social disorders, and create a war 
of castes, more to be avoided than any other species of conflict 
amongst men, because it is necessarily a war of extermina- 
tion. The Eepublic might have overcome all these opposing 
circumstances ; survived all the shocks to which it was ex- 
posed; rooted out the elements of disease in the body politic, 
and triumphantly vindicated the glorious principles upon 
which it had been founded. But there was one source of 
weakness, a canker at the heart, which was more fatal to its 

VOL. II. 54 


existence and success than priestly, or servile, or foreign, or 
whatever other distracting influences, or all combined, and 
that was Popular Ignorancb ! Fatally for the Republic, 
that mass of the population, whatever its desires or impulses, 
was sunk in ignorance. 

Up to this time, the concurrence of the people generally, in 
the measures of amelioration and good government which 
were adopted, had been secured more by appeals to their 
feelings than to their judgment — a false and imstable reli- 
ance, which makes all government a thing of caprice, compa- 
rable only to a rudderless bark upon a turbulent sea. Relief 
from taxation and exactions of every kind was one of the 
controlling influences, with the people at large, in their over- 
throw of the Spanish authority. Incapable of comprehend- 
ing the requirements of government, they ignorantly claimed 
exemption from contributing to its support And when the 
reformed code was adopted, and prisons, from dark dens of 
death were required to be constructed on a new plan, they 
neither understood the necessity nor humanity of the change. 
They only considered that it drew from them money and 
labor, and therefore they opposed it. They regarded trial 
by jury, not as a measure of vital import, of security to life 
and property, but as an unwarrantable demand upon their 
time and services ; and without confidence in each other, dis- 
trusted the impartiality of their fellows constituting the jury. 
Such were the considerations which controlled them ; and 
in this manner did the most laudable acts of the Republic, 
artfully misrepresented by its enemies, contribute to its 

When the Livingston code of laws was put in operation 
in Guatemala, the people of the town of San Juan Ostuncala, 
who were nearly all aborigines, being called upon to con- 
struct new prisons, rose en masse against the circuit judges, 
then holding their first term of court in that town, and com- 
pelled them to fly. A short time after a collision ensued be- 


tween the populace, and the authorities, and troops of the dis- 
trict who endeavored to enforce the laws, in which, after a 
severe struggle the former were defeated. In their flight 
they left behind them some of their ancient stone idols, hith- 
erto concealed from the priests, but which they had brought 
from their hiding places, in the belief that they would be 
able to assist them against their assailants. This circum- 
stance furnishes an evidence alike of the popular ignorance 
and general superstition. 

But the dire consequences of the general ignorance were 
not fully exemplified until the following year, when the 
cholera first made its appearance in Central America. Phy- 
sicians were few, and from neglect and improper treatment 
the disease spread with fearful rapidity, and was attended 
with the greatest mortality. General consternation pervaded 
the entire population ; never before had an epidemic swept 
over their country. The government, prompt to discharge 
its duties, took active measures to mitigate, if it could not 
stop the ravages of the pestilence. " Not only all the medi- 
cal staff of Gruatemala," says an English author, then resident 
in the country, " but most of the young students, were fur- 
nished with medicines and sent to those places where it was 
thought their presence was most urgently required. The 
poor Indians, who were dying in great numbers, are gener- 
ally panic stricken when the least epidemic prevails. Their 
terror was now excessive. The priests, who had before learn- 
ed to improve, even such opportunities, were ready to foment 
their fears, and to awaken their resentment against the Lib- 
erals, by insinuating that they had poisoned the waters with 
a view to destroy the Indians, intending to repeople the 
country with foreigners ; and as a proof of this they pointed 
to the colony just established in Vera Paz. The too credu- 
lous aborigines, who had so lately been excited against some 
of the reforms, and especially that of trial by jury, needed 
no more to rouse them to rebellion. Their cry was now di- 


rected against the poisoners and the foreign residents. Man; 
of the doctors had to effect their escape as best they could. 
Some were seized and killed, being forced to swallow the 
whole contents of their medicine chests, or water was poured 
down their throats till they died, and the results were con- 
sidered conclusive evidence of their guilt." 

The insurrection became general in the districts in which 
the aboriginies predominated, and the desolation of the pesti- 
lence was soon followed by the more dreadful devastations 
of civil war. Irregular and tumultuous assemblages, avow- 
ing the bloodiest purposes, became common in places where, 
as yet, there had been no open revolt. An ill-advised 
attempt to disperse one of the largest of these, by a small 
body of troops, at the town of Santa Bosa, on the 9th of June, 
1837, was successfully resisted; a part of the troops were 
killed, and the remainder forced to retreat with precipitation. 
The affair, in itself, was not of much consequence ; like a 
thousand similar affrays, it might have caused a momentary 
excitement, and then have been forgotten. But, like the 
battle of'Sabina Grande, which, by bringing forward Mora- 
zan, changed, for the time, the destinies of the country, and 
averted the fate which impended over it, the rout at Santa 
Rosa marks an era in the history of Central America — the 
era of anarchy and blood. The war of castes, of which the 
aboriginal insurrection in San Salvador had been but a pre- 
<;ursor, now commenced in earnest. The leader of the mob 
at Santa Rosa was Rafael Carrera, whose name thence- 
forward became conspicuous in the annals of the country, and 
a synonym for all that was fearful to the people of Guatemala, 
over whom he soon come to sway the terrors of an irrepressi- 
ble and despotic power. 

Carrera's history forms a most striking contrast to that of 
Morazan. Both were born of revolutions; both came to 
exercise unlimited power ; but there the parallel ends. One 
was the savior for the time, of Republican i'^stitutions — ^the 


Other their assassin; the liberality, the generosity, the 
patriotism of one, were not more conspicuous, than the 
ignorance, the bigotry, the treachery, and the brutality of 
the other. One was the impersonation of progress and 
freedom, the idol of a republican and lawfully constituted 
soldiery ; the other of retrogradation and tyranny, and the 
blind leader of fanatic and tumultuous hordes animated by 
hate and lust, and eager for pillage, revenge and murder. 

Carrera is a Ladino, or mixture of white and Indian, with 
a great predominance of the latter — ^a dark, uncommunicative, 
irrascible man, of a bold, unscrupulous spirit, and possessed 
of great determination and perseverance. When he led the 
mob at Santa Bosa, he was only about twenty-one years of 
age — a pig driver, unable either to read or write, but yet 
already possessed of considerable influence amongst the 
lower classes of the Indian population. His affinities of 
blood, and the force of circumstances, rather than his bravery 
or his abilities, were the elements of his strength and success, 
and ultimately raised him to power — a power never con- 
trolled by justice, or tempered with mercy. 

Carrera was, at the first, a mere tool of the priests, and 
seems really to have believed the story which they artfully 
and industriously circulated, that the cholera was induced by 
a systematic poisoning of the waters by the government and 
the foreigners, and that, under pretext of checking the 
disease, the physicians, sent out by the authorities, were 
actually engaged in the prosecution of the design of exter- 
minating the Indian and mixed population. 

Inspirited by the success at Santa Bosa, and fixing upon 
Carrera as the instrument of their purposes, the priests 
willingly lent themselves to the extension of his influence. 
They proclaimed to the natives that he was their protecting 
angel Eafael, descended from heaven, to take vengeance on 
the heretics. Liberals, and foreigners, and to restore their 
ancient dominion. They devised various tricks to favor the 

', »- 


delusion, which were heralded as miracles. A letter was let 
down from the roof of one of the churches, in the midst of a 
vast congregation of Indians, which purported to come from 
the Virgin Mary, commissioning Carrera to lead in a general 
revolt against the government, and assuring him of the 
tangible interposition of Heaven I 

Carrera, by these means, soon found himself at the head of 
a large body of excited, but undisciplined Indians. From 
fear or policy, be avoided any general engagement with the 
forces sent against him, and never suffered himself to be 
drawn into a conflict, except when the chances were greatly 
in his favor. The first encounter, after the affisur of Santa 
Rosa, although the Indians fought with desperation, under 
the assurance of immediate entrance into paradise of all who 
fell, resulted in the defeat of the insurgents. Their obstinate 
resistance, however, had maddened the troops of the govern- 
ment, who, in the heat of the moment, committed great 
excesses, which tended to make subsequent reconciliation 
impossible. Their conduct gave color to the popular belief, 
that the complete annihilation of the Indians was meditated. 
The fight of Mataquesquintla, was, therefore, without any 
decisive effect Carrera fled from place to place, but every- 
where lighted the flames of insurrection, which now became 
universal. The energies of the government were exhausted, 
in vain attempts to bring matters to a final issue. Guerilla 
bands, and bodies of marauders and robbers infested all the 
public highways, and swept off the inhabitants of the unde 
fended estates. In fact, out of the principal towns, and 
except in their immediate vicinity, the oompietest anarchy 

In Guatemala the questions which had before divided the 
people were^ to a great degree, swallowed up in that of the 
public safety. The Liberal Government of the State found 
itself beset with difficulties and dangers cm every aide, and 
the Serviles themselves were aflGrighted at the storm which 


they had contributed to raise, and which could no longer be 
controlled. In this emergency, the Liberals proposed a re- 
conciliation or compromise, in order to avert the common 
danger. The Serviles required the resignation of the gov- 
ernor, Galvez, one of the most decided, yet most moderate 
and able of the Liberals, the dissolution of his ministry, and 
the induction of new officers to be selected from those neutral 
or moderate in politics. The Liberals, true to their name, 
acceded to the demands, and even allowed the establishment 
of a semi-Servile government, rather than incur the responsi- 
bility of still further endangering the State. 

The new administration, under pretence of the necessity 
of these measures in restoring peace, suspended the law of 
habeas corpus and many other guaranties of the constitution, 
shackled the press, and established a military regimen ; in 
short, betrayed the most decided reactionary tendencies. 
The excesses of the military, who were invested with extra- 
ordinary powers, also contributed to create general discon- 
tent ; and although these measures, under the belief that they 
were in some degree required by the public exigencies, re- 
ceived a tacit support from one portion of the Liberals, yet 
the great body of that party regarded them with fear and 
hostility. Much irritation and some serious disputes speedily 
ensued. Antigua Guatemala, head of the department of 
Sacatepequez, always jealous of the new city, pronounced 
against the State Government, — denounced it as an usurpa- 
tion, and placed itself under the protection of the Federation. 
The State Government retaliated by declaring Secatepequez 
in a st^te of insurrection, and proclaimed martial law against 
it But similar pronunciamentos soon followed in the De- 
partments of Chiquimula, Salamar, and Vera Paz. A portion 
of the troops, also indignant at what they regarded the 
treachery of the acting government, rose in the capital itself, 
and demanded the restoration of the officers who had resigned 
to fiivor the so-called compromise. 


In this confusion, the factions called in the sword of (kt* 
rera, who, with the aid of his ferocious guerillas, marched 
upon Guatemala, captured it, and placed a man named Ve- 
lasquez at the head of the State. This excitement was M- 
lowed by the greatest alarm, for Carrera's soldiery could not 
be restrained, — disorders of every kind, robberies and vio- 
lence became of constant occurrence. Tne people demanded 
their expulsion, which was effected with difficulty, — ^the Ser- 
viles forcing the Liberals, who were temporarily associated 
with them, to take the lead in the movement, and incur the 
hatred of Carrera and his followers. They quietly remained 
in their houses, and even, it is said, conveyed secret assur- 
ances to Carrera that it was done in defiance of their wishes. 
A partial understanding had already been effected between 
them, and from thenceforth the Serviles were committed to 
Carrera and the insurrection. 

The Liberals of the Departments of Quesaltenango, Solola, 
and Totonicapan, where the insurrection was not yet general, 
now erected those provinces into a new State, called Los 
Altos, and asked admission into the Federation. The appli- 
cation was favorably received ; and soon after the new State 
was formally recognized, and admitted into the Federation 
in its sovereign capacity. Here the Liberals sought refuge 
from Guatemala, where the Serviles, installed by force, and 
leagued with the aborigines, enacted the most proscriptivc 
measures against all who opposed their authority. Had they 
not met with a speedy check, it is impossible to say to what 
height their violence might have attained. 

The Federal Government, at the commencement of the in- 
surrection in Guatemala, had not attempted to interfere. It 
was doubted whether it had a right to do so until the author- 
ity of the State had fisdled to vindicate itself; nor had it the 
means, at the moment, of effective interposition. The people 
of the other States were not eager to interfere in quarrels in 
which they were not directly interested. When, therefore, 


Morazan found himself forced by circumstances and the Con- 
stitution to interpose, he experienced great difl&culty in rais- 
ing the requisite forces. He was finally compelled to advance 
at the head of an insufScient number of men. He reached 
the district of Mita, the seat of the rebellion, and although 
victorious in every engagement, yet at the end of a severe 
campaign found, to his deep regret, that no decisive result 
had been achieved. The new posture of affiairs in Guatemala 
now embarrassed him still further. The Servile policy was 
efiectively adapted to keep up the war. At the head, there- 
fore, of his harrassed army, he now turned his face towards 
that city. The Serviles knew the man, and overawed by 
his presence, attempted no opposition. To bend, they had 
long before learned, was wiser than to break. Their obvious 
policy was to temporize and evade, — a policy always coupled 
with deceit and treachery. The people, relieved by the ap- 
proach of Morazan, demanded the resignation of the Servile 
authorities; and with a well-feigned patriotic compliance, 
they surrendered their offices into the hands of Morazan. A 
new election was shortly afterwards ordered, which resulted 
in the choice of Mariano Rivera Paz, a moderate Liberal, as 
Chief of the State. The first acts of the restored Liberals 
were to proclaim a general amnesty of all political offences 
committed since the Independence, and to make a general ap- 
peal to the inhabitants for the suppression of interior disorders. 
The immediate effect upon the insurgents was favorable, and 
Morazan again taking the field against them, they proposed 
terms which were accepted, and a treacherous peace was 
patched up, to be broken at the first favorable moment. 

The presence of Morazan in the capital of Guatemala was 
signalized by an attempt to corrupt his patriotism, and bring 
him into the Servile interest. "This arrogant, and yet most 
subservient party," says a Central American author, " received 
Morazan with well-affected satisfaction ; they surrounded him, 
and overwhelmed him with flattery and adulation. For the 

VOL. II. 55 


moment, they reflected on him the disgrace which attached 
to themselves, and deceived with the belief that they had 
corrupted his principles, they finally openly proposed to him 
to abandon his supporters, abolish existing institotioDSy and 
assume the dictatorship of the country. Their proposition 
was met with the scorn which it deserved ; and, covered with 
shame, the parricides were thrown back again upon their 
more congenial policy of intrigue and insurrection." 

While these events were taking place in Guatemala, the 
other States were daily becoming more and more disorganized. 
The attempt to agree upon a new Constitution had fiiiled, and 
the objections against the old one had undergone no diminu- 
tion. Distrust and discontent were general ; the seething of 
the popular elements was constantly going on, and occasion- 
ally breaking out in insurrectionary ebullitions. Morazan 
had no sooner restored a temporary calm in Guatemala, than 
he was called to suppress serious disorders in San Salvador. 
A man of unsurpassed daring and cruelty, Francisco Malespin, 
had excited a revolt which threatened disastrous consequences. 
The grounds upon which it was started are not known ; in- 
deed, parties had now become subdivided into numerous 
fiw^tions, without any clear conception of their own wants, 
and swayed by the impulses of the moment 

Hardly had Morazan passed out of Guatemala, followed 
by the Federal troops, before Carrera again concentrated his 
Indian followers, and assumed the offensive with renewed 
vigor. He attacked a body of government troops stationed, 
under the command of Col. Bonilla, at Xalapa, and not only 
routed them, but drove the fugitive remnants beyond the 
borders of the State, into San Salvador. This success inspired 
the insurgents with confidence, and increased their numbers. 
Carrem had not forgotten his ignominious expulsion from 
the city of Guatemala ; and, burning for revenge, he directed 
all his energies to secure its overthrow. An attempt was 
made by a petty force, at Petapa, to stop his advance, but it 


was unsuccessful, and he continued his march. Hardly had 
the news of the outbreak reached the cit}*^, before he appeared 
before it, and the day following he entered without resistance. 
The excited savage had sworn to burn the city to the ground, 
and was with great difficulty prevailed upon to forego his 
purpose. He nevertheless exercised the greatest cruelties 
upon the Liberal inhabitants, and his soldiers plundered them 
with impunity. The Serviles enjoyed entire immunity, and 
cemented firmly their alliance with the Indian leader.^ 

But in the midst of the intoxication of this triumph. Gen. 
Salazar, who had collected a force of nine hundred men, en- 
countered a large body of the insurgents returning from the 
plunder of a neighboring town, at a place called Villa Nue- 
va, and favored by circumstances, defeated them with terrible 
slaughter. More than five hundred of the Indians were 
slain. Carrera, affrighted at the disaster, at the head of his 
followers, abandoned the city, and fied to the fastnesses of 
Mita. Had this effective blow been followed up, the insurrec- 
tion would no doubt have been permanently crushed. But 
Salazar was embarrassed by other officers in the Servile in- 

* Concerning the events following the capture, Don Jose Barrundia, a 
living author, writes as follows : 

*'Who can describe the agony of Guatemala beneath the fury of the 
savage, and the oppression of his hordes? It is fearful to fecall the con- 
tinued assaults on the houses, within which, through doors and windows, 
the roving soldiery wantonly discharged their amis, killing and wounding 
the unresisting occupants, without regard to age or sex. Insult and as- 
sassination were common in the pubhc streets, in the broad light of day. 
What then were the horrors of the night, when the doleful songs of the 
savages, mingled with drunken shouts, the shrieks of violated women, and 
the groans of husbands, fathers and brothers, slaughtered in vain at- 
tempts at resistance, all combined to appal the souls of men? 

"All this time, however, the Serviles enjoyed immunity, beneath the 
shadow of the monster. He received the homage of the noblesse; in- 
cense was offered to him in the temples, and in the great cathedral, he was 
impiously proclaimed as an angel sent of God I" 


terest, who were now prolific in temporizing plans, and com- 
pelled him to proceed to Guatemala, where he threw up his 
commission in disgust. And although he was afterwards in- 
duced to resume it, yet meantime the insurgents had recov- 
ered from their alarm. The indomitable Carrera again ap- 
peared in the field, and made an incursion into San Salvador, \i 
reduced the towns of Santa Ana and Aquachahan, and then 
rapidly fell back within the State of Guatemala. Here, how- 
ever, he was met once more, and again defeated. A series 
of contests ensued, with results generally unfavorable to the 
insurgents, who, learning that Morazan was organizing a 
tbrce for their complete annihilation, became dispirited, and 
evinced a disposition to abandon the struggle, which Garreia 
himself could not resist He had the foresight, however, to 
make such terms with the government as^hould best secure 
his ulterior purposes. On the 23d of December, 1838, a treaty 
was signed, by the terms of which the insurgents agreed to 
surrender their arms and recognize the constituted authori- 
ties, provided Carrera was made commander of Mita, and a 
general pardon conceded to all the rebels. Carrera, however, 
under pretence that it was required to defend the district, 
continued to keep on foot a considerable force ; and, being 
now invested with a legal authority, came to constitute him- 
self a principal power in the State. This result showed the 
weakness of the Government, and was Carrera's most effective 
stride towards the attainment of supreme authority. 

This ev^nt, and the feverish condition of the country at 
large, showed that the government, general and state, were 
powerless for good. They were without resources, and des- 
titute of any principle of common action. Morazan's per- 
sonal popularity and exertions, alone kept up the appearance 
of national vitality, and the semblance of order. The Federal 
Congress met in 1838, and Morazan frankly communicated 
to it the state of the country. The dispirited members heard 
in silence ; and conscious of their utter weakness seem, from 


the first, to have surrendered the Eepublic to its fate. They 
passed a decree, conceding to the States many of the powers 
which had been invested in the General Government, reserv- 
ing to the latter little more than the management of foreign 
affairs, and the collection of the customs. This was a virtual 
recognition of the dissolution of the Eepublic, and the last 
act of the Congress, which now immediately dissolved its 
sessions, and never again assembled. The State Legislature 
of Guatemala, dismayed at the prospect before it, followed 
this example. 

The several States were thus thrown upon their own 
resources. Had they been truly wise and patriotic, at this 
critical moment, they would have sacrificed all their animos- 
ities, prejudices, and conflicting opinions upon the altar of 
the common good. But scattered over a wide expanse of 
country, with slow and insufficient means of communication, 
it was impossible for those who desired it to eflFect an under- 
standing, or devise means to meet the emergency. There 
were many, also, who saw in a general disruption, a ready 
means of individual, local advancement. The consequences 
may readily be anticipated. A convention to revise the Con- 
stitution of the State had been called at Nicaragua, to meet 
in the month of May. The course of the Congress embar- 
rassed its action ; it was impossible to define the powers of 
the State as a member of a Confederation, when that Con- 
federation had virtually surrendered its powers. Eegarding 
itself as bound to provide for the sovereignty which it repre- 
sented, it declared Nicaragua an independant Eepublic, and 
framed a constitution accordingly. It nevertheless adhered 
to the idea of nationality, and provided for the resumption 
of its former position, as a State of the Eepublic, whenever 
the Confederation should be reorganized. Honduras fol- 
lowed the example of Nicaragua. Costa Eica was revolu- 
tionized by a chief named Carillo, who deposed the legally 
elected governor, Aguilar, and assumed the dictatorship. 


He subsequently dispensed with all forms of law, and, for fimr 
years, exercised absolute authority. Yet his administn^cQ 
was generally wise and beneficial, and under it that little 
State made considerable advances in material prosperity. 

At the close of the year 1838, the Republic presented 
a mere wreck, to which San Salvador, Guatemala, and 
the new State of Los Altos only adhered. Morazan was 
the sole representative of nationality, and on the 1st of 
February following, his term of office expired* There was 
now neither President nor Congress, nor any unity of action 
amongst the States, for filling the vacancies. Morazan, 
actuated by a high sense of duty, and still indulging the 
hope, that by keeping up a central power, the reorganization 
of the Republic, which all affected to desire, might be secured, 
under the advice of his friends, determined to maintain his 
position as President, until a successor should be chosen. 
He had always asserted the principle, and acted upon it, 
that it was the duty of the General Government to preserve 
the integrity of the Confederation ; in other words, he denied 
the right of secession. This was the secret of the opposition 
to him of a large part of the Liberals. Consistent to the last, 
he coupled the avowal of his determination to hold on to the 
supreme authority, with that of compelling the acknowledg- 
ment of the Republic, by all the States which had omstituted 
its members. 

This avowal led to collisions with Nicaragua and Hon- 
duras, already committed to the opposite side, which con- 
tinued during the entire year, 1839. Notwithstanding the 
inequality of the contest, the Federal leader, effectively aided 
by Gen. Cabaflas, one of the best and bravest men which the 
country has ever produced, sustained himself with great 
success. San Salvador was invaded by the united troops of 
Nicaragua and Honduras; but after penetrating into the 
interior, they were defeated in a series of decisive engage- 
ments, and being driven into Honduras, that State was over 


run by the Federal forces, who, in turn were defeated and 
compelled to fall back. While fortune was thus oscillating 
between the two sections, exhausting and embittering both, 
and rendering reconciliation impossible, the Serviles in 
Guatemala were planning an effective demonstration in 
their own behalf. 

They entered into a league with Carrera, and when Mora- 
zan became most deeply involved in troubles elsewhere, — 
troubles which they augmented by every means in their 
power, — the Indian leader, in response to their call, marched 
at the head of five thousand men, upon the city of Guate- 
mala. The little garrison of three hundred men offered no 
resistance, and the Indian, dignified by the title of General, 
entered, in triumph, the city from which he had been twice 
expelled. He renewed many of the previous acts of violence 
against the Liberals, demanding from them $20,000 for him- 
self and men, but, on the whole, behaved with more modera- 
tion than on his previous visit. He now became practical 
Dictator of the State, — installing a government subservient 
to his wishes, which at once proceeded to proscribe and put 
to death, all those of opposing politics, whose position, in- 
fluence, or past conduct had made them obnoxious or dan- 
gerous to the usurpers. History recoils from recording the 
details of this reign of terror ; when the sacred forms of law 
were violated, and made the instruments of hate, revenge, 
and murder. These acts were followed, in due course, by a 
declaration of withdrawal from the Republic, and by a convo- 
cation of Servile partizans, called a representative council, 
which decreed that Guatemala constituted a distinct and 
sovereign state. 

And thus was consummated the third triumph of the Ser- 
viles in Guatemala. Leagued with Despotism, Priestcraft, 
and Savage Ignorance, they stood victors amidst the ruins of 
civil and social order, in a country which they had made 
desolate and waste. Agriculture was prostrated, commerce 


destroyed, and the fountains of public wealth dried up. In 
the midst of ashes, blood, and desolation, they proceeded to 
abolish the liberal laws of their predecessors, and, as far as 
possible to return to the systems of Spain. 

In this work of retrogradation none were more active than 
the priests, who procured the reestablishment of some of the 
convents, and were clamorous for a restitution of their tithes 
and other revenues, as also of their confiscated property. 
But to their amazement, Carrara peremptorily refused his 
assent. The Indian had learned the utter selfishness of the 
priesthood, and was too wise to strengthen and again build 
up a power, which might be used against himself The as- 
tonished Serviles now found that the chieftain was their 
master, not their slave! 

Meantime the priests in Los Altos, (Quesaltenango), had 
raised an insurrection, which being promptly seconded by 
Carrera, resulted in the overthrow of the Liberal or Federal 
authorities, and the reincorporation of that State in Carrera's 
Dictatorship of Guatemala. Guzman, the President, a num- 
ber of his ofl&cers, and many prominent Liberals, were cap- 
tured by Carrera, and put to death in the most brutal man- 
ner. Others fleeing to San Salvador, were overtaken by his 
subordinates, and murdered by slow tortures, in modes too 
revolting to be recounted. The history of warfiire amongst 
savages fails to parallel the atrocities which were committed. 

San Salvador now stood alone in its recognition of the 
Eepublic, — ^the only stronghold of the Liberal interest But 
the spirit of Morazan was unbroken. He determined to make 
one more effort in behalf of the cause to which his life had 
been dedicated. And although surrounded by enemies and 
timid firiends, he succeeded in raising a force of twelve hun- 
dred men, with which he marched on Guatemala. Nothing 
could check his advance, and on the 18th of March, 1840, he 
entered Guatemala. He had relied much upon the popular 
feeling in his favor in that city; but the spirit of the people 


had been broken by the reverses which they had suffered ; 
his friends had been slaughtered or expelled, and he found 
himself alone and unsupported. A host of enemies closed 
around him ; his force, reduced to less than one thousand 
men, was hemmed in the principal plaza by upwards of five 
thousand Indians, under the command of Carrera in person. 
Comprehending that all was lost, and knowing well that the 
rules of civilized warfare were not recognized amongst his 
assailants, Morazan resolved to cut his way through them and 
effect a retreat. The conflict was terrible ; more than half 
his officers and men were killed, or captured and massacred 
Twenty-three officers, the chivalry of Central America, who 
sought the protection of the British flag, were surrendered 
by the British Consul, and shot like dogs, beneath his por- 
tal. Those who reached the French Consulate were saved. 

Morazan, having effected his retreat, returned to San Sal- 
vador, only to find that the various factions, taking advan- 
tage of his misfortunes, had united against him. The truth 
that all was lost could no longer be disguised ; the unfailing 
hope, which had previously sustained him, whispered not one 
word of encouragement, and, on a dark and stormy night, 
imblematic of his fortunes, with a handful of followers, 
whose attachment no reverses could dampen, nor even death 
destroy, the last President of the Republic sailed, a fugitive, 
from the land which he had twice saved from desolation, and 
to whose welfare he had dedicated his intellect and energies. 
This little band of exiles, the forlorn hope of the Liberal 
party, arrived safely in Valparaiso, where they remained for 
nearly two years. 

Carrera feared no man in Central America except Mora- 
zan, and elated by the news of his flight, his first impulse, 
was to grasp at that power in the country at large, which he 
had now attained in the State of Guatemala. He accordingly 
raised a large army, and marched into San Salvador. No 
effectual resistance was made to his progress, which was 
VOL n. 56 


marked with robbery and desolation. Siding with one of 
the local factions, he placed it in power; but finding that the 
States of Honduras and Nicaragua had united to resist him, 
and that his Indians lost much of their efficiency when 
removed from their native hills, he was reluctantly compelled 
to abandon his scheme of conquest. No sooner, however, 
had he quited San Salvador, on his return to Guatemala, 
than the authorities which he had installed, were overthrown 
by a concurrent movement of the people ; and the only 
result of his invasion, was to inspire them with the deadliest 
hatred, both of him and his party, which has increased, rather 
than diminished, with the lapse of time. 


TION— (1841— 1851). 

The year 1841 witnessed all semblance of nationality 
destroyed, and the Republic split into five distinct sovereign- 
ties, suspicious of each other, the prey of internal factions, 
and racked by the struggles of unscrupulous partizan leaders. 

In Guatemala the members of the Servile Assembly found 
themselves the simple registers of the will of Carrera, who 
centered in himself the entire powers of the government. 
He early discovered the secret of the Servile friendship, and 
that the leaders of that faction aimed to make his shoulders 
the stepping-stone of their own elevation. He was no longer 
the ignorant pig-driver of Mita, the tool of a cunning priest- 
hood, but a successful chieftain, greedy of power, and un- 
scrupulous in his purpose of augmenting and securing it. 
He favored the views of the Serviles, therefore, only so far as 
they coincided with his own ; he conformed to the law so far 
as the law could be made to conform to his purposes ; but 
when it stood in the way of these, he hesitated not to evade 
or wholly disregard it. "You have the physical force of the 
country, I grant you," said an indignant member of the 
Assembly, addressing Carrera, in open session, "but the 
moral force of the country is with us, Sefior General!" 
Carrera made no answer, but soon left the chamber. In 
fifteen minutes the bayonets of five hundred Indians gleamed 


around the hall ; the doors were opened wide, and Carrera 
entering, planted himself in front of the daring member, and 
pointing to the sable ranks of soldiery, exclaimed, " Here arc 
my Indians ! \VTiere is your moral force ? " 

The priests were eager to procure, not only a restoration 
of the confiscated property of the church, but also of the 
tithes and other sources of revenue which had been abolishetl 
by the Liberals. Carrera assented to some of these demands, 
but prohibited the Assembly from passing any laws making 
the support of the priests obligatory upon the people. " If 
any one wishes to employ a priest, let him pay for it," was 
his brief reply to a decree of the Assembly, over which 
he blotted his pen, when it was presented for his ap- 

Costa Eica remained under the dictatorship of Carillo; but, 
having received a new impulse from the successful introduc- 
tion of the cultivation of coflfee, was quiet and prosperous. 
It was enabled to pay off its quota of the national debt, and 
its surplus revenues were devoted to public improvements. 

Nicaragua, San Salvador, and Honduras, although having 
distinct governments, yet cherished the idea of a Republic, 
and were engaged in constant, but ineffectual attempts to 
devise a satisfactory basis of union. Finally, however, it 
was arranged to refer the matter to a Congress of all the 
States, which was called to meet at Chinandega, in Nicaragua, 
on the 17th of March, 1842. The proposition met the un- 
divided hostility of Carrera and the Serviles in Guatemala, 
and of Carillo, in Costa Rica ; who not only refused concur- 
rence, but threatened violent opposition to any attempt at 
national organization. The deputies of the States above 
named, nevertheless met, and proceeded to decide upon the 
terms of the union. It was agreed that, the National Gov- 
ernment should consist " of a Supreme Delegate, chosen by a 
majority of the States ; a body of Councilors elected in like 
manner; a Supreme Court of Final Appeals; and that each 


State should have its own government and laws, and the 
control of its own revenues." The jealousy of a strong cen- 
tral power, which had been an active element in the disso- 
lution of the Federation, was strikingly manifested in this 
projet of union. The fact that a government, with such 
limited powers, and without revenues, could only have a 
nominal existence, was so obvious, even to the strongest of 
the Anti-Centralists, that no serious attempt was made to 
carry the plan into operation. 

Although the attempt failed, it yet afforded an evidence 
that the national spirit was not entirely suffocated ; and the 
immediate friends of Morazan, indulging the belief that the 
personal hostility to him had, in a great measure, subsided, 
ffelt confident that his return would result in a permanent 
revival of the Federation. 

They accordingly pressed him to present himself in the 
country, assuring him of an enthusiastic reception. Acting 
under these assurances, in March, 1842, he and his ofl&cers 
embarked at Valparaiso, on board of two vessels, one of which 
was named Goquimbo ; and in the month following touched at 
the Port of La Union, in San Salvador. But finding that the 
plans of the Liberal Centralists were not yet ripe, he with- 
drew to the Port of Calderas, in Costa Rica. Here he soon 
rallied around himself the available force of the country, and 
marching to the capital, deposed Carillo, and elevated once 
more the prostrate flag of the Republic. The Legislative 
Chambers met, elected Morazan governor, and repealed the 
act separating the State from the Confederation. 

This favorable result, in a state hitherto practically most 
hostile to the Republic, naturally raised the highest hopes in 
the breasts of Morazan and his officers and friends ; who, 
from the vessel which had brought them, were called Co- 
quimbos. They believed that the people of the various 
States, wearied of the political disorganization of the country, 
would declare for the restoration of the Republic, as soon as 


the first earnest attempt towards its organization should be 
made. Morazan, therefore, raised troops, and made arrange- 
ments to advance beyond Costa Rica, into Nicaragua. A 
levy of 2000 men and $50,000 was decreed by the Assembly. 
But the people of Costa Rica were averse to war ; a consider- 
able part of the males fled to the woods to avoid the levy, 
and it was found necessary to resort to forcible means to 
carry out the decrees of the Assembly. This served still 
fiirther to excite dissatisfaction, and facilitated the designs of 
emissaries sent .by the aflnghted Serviles and the English 
agents in Guatemala to undermine Morazan's popularity, and 
effect his overthrow before he should consolidate his power. 
At this moment a circumstance transpired which enabled 
them to strike a decisive blow. One of Morazan's oflScers, 
named Molina, a member of an influential Liberal family, 
forcibly abducted a young lady of rank from her father's 
house, for which he was arrested by his superior officer, GreiL 
Rivas. He chose to regard this as an insult, and retaliated 
by exciting the troops to insurrection, and by putting his 
commander to death. He was arrested at the Port of 
Calderas, and sentenced to be shot. The affair caused much 
excitement; a strong party was formed in favor of the 
delinquent, and it was feared that an attempt might be made 
to prevent the execution of the sentence. To guard against 
this, Morazan sent his confidential General, Sachet, and 
nearly all the troops upon whom he could rely, to Calderas, 
retaining around himself only a small guard. His enemies, 
finding him alone, and almost unprotected, seized upon the 
favorable moment to declare against him. The fickle popu- 
lace, following the lead thus given, and in number some 
5,000 men, attacked Morazan in San Jos<$, the capital. With 
a little handful of only three or four hundred followers, 
Morazan defended himself for two days and nights, and then 
cutting his way through his assailants fled to the city of 
Cartago, where, failing to receive assistance, he, with his two 


mma and principal adherents^ was taken priA>ner, bn>u<)<ht 
back to San Jos^ on the 18th of S<^pteinWr, IS42, aiKi 
immediatelj shot. Thns died the abU-nt, aiui in uiauv ix*- 
spects the best, man which Central Amerioii evor pi\kIiu\hI. 
To Costa Rica belongs the odium of uii m-t ivvoltiii>; to 
hxunanitj, which, while it has fon'ver arrayiHl tho LilKMal 
party against her, has secured for her tho unonviablo tl*lK>w- 
ship of the Servile faction in GuaUMuula, with whioh SUkW >*ho 
has ever since been identified in |>oli(?y. 

When the news of Morazan's captuni roaohtnl his !*U[»jHUt- 
era on the coast, it was hardly cnMliUMi ; yot Uou. OuUfcUiw, 
at the head of a small but chosen body of uw\u iiuhuUuaolv 
started to relieve him. Uc had not pnHMMMhnl fur, whou hv> 
was met by a Spaniard, named Kspiimrh, wlio pr\»riv*MHl 
great friendship for Morazan, and who ajwtuvtl rui/att»i»i ihut 
the General was not only in no pei'soual dniigtM', but wjw 
already on his way to the coast. DccMMvtMl by iUia iiilormn- 
tion, the force returned to CaMenus, whem Mhoilly utbu" ar- 
rived the news of the atnxjity at San .loik5. Mom/Hii*«* iVioud^ 
were struck aghast; his private nwjretary, MiuMiol SaraviH. a 
man of extensive accomplishmontH, committed Huicido; but 
death failed to sever the ties wliich liud bound hi?* tbUoNVorn 
to the cause of the Liberal chieftain. Their tbrtuntv* wero 
now desperate ; but they were trui; to the j»rinei|>hrt whieh thuy 
had espoused.* They embarked on board Monni vt^aseU in tht5 
harbor; and after blockading the port for Home WiMA'H, Mi>t 
sail for San Salvador. Here they w<3re n^iMMved and bo- 
friended by Malespin, then prar:tieally eontnillin^ the alHiii'H 
of the State. This man had first attained noUirietv as a hi^di- 
way robber, and had headcfl an insurrt^ction af^ainst Mora/an 
during his ascendancy in San Salva<lor, but had been dofeateil 
and driven into exile. He harl sul)8cquently returned with 
Carrera, and by him raised to the command of the forces, 
under the supposition that he would prove an uncompromis- 
ing enemy of the Liberal party. Bat he soon found that the 


Liberals, although divided on many questions, still predom- 
inated in the State, and shaped his course accordingly, with 
the ultimate view of strengthening his own power. He now 
saw an opportunity of conciliating the friends of Morazan, 
and securing them to his interest; and therefore, not only 
welcomed the Coquimbos, but shared amongst them many 
of the offices of the Government. This politic step, and the 
other means which he had adopted to conciliate his enemies, 
placed him at the head of the Government ; and with his 
dashing manners, and decisive character, it at one time 
appeared as if his sway might spread over the adjacent 
States. Carrera and the Serviles were alarmed at this turn 
of affiiirs, but hesitated in coming to blows with their fornier 
associate. They however connived at an expedition, organ- 
ized in Guatemala, for the invasion of San Salvador, by Gen. 
Arce, the first President and the betrayer of the Eepublic; 
who was now reduced, as if in punishment for his crimes, to 
the condition of a common adventurer. The expedition 
proved a total failure ; and the act was at once disavowed by 
Carrera and the Serviles of Guatemala, who actually arrested 
and imprisoned their miserable tool, in order to give a color 
of sincerity to their protestations. But Malespin was not 
to be deceived ; he raised a force, and retaliated, by invading 
Guatemala. The advance was made with such vigor and 
success, that it is likely the State would haveJbeen subdued, 
had not Malespin been recalled by an insurrection amongst 
his own troops, whom he had left behind. They had never 
been attached to their leader; and. Liberals at heart, declared 
for Gen. Cabafias, one of the best of Morazan's officers, a man 
of unimpeachable character, moderate principles, and humane 
disposition, and a proverb of bravery. And although 
Cabafias, true to his own reputation, refused to accept the 
command to the injury of his benefector, Malespin, indig- 
nant at the preference shown to another, not only withdrew 
from Guatemala, but disbanded the forces supposed to be 


least fevorable to himself; and by his conduct laid the foun- 
dation of a quarrel, which terminated in his own destruction, 
Carrera in turn invaded San Salvador; but, fearful of being 
served in like manner with Malespin, he fell back without 
accomplishing anything worthy of remark. 

After the death of Morazan, the States became not only 
divided in themselves, but amongst themselves. They 
were racked, not so much by partizan, as individual struggles 
for supremacy, and thus reduced to a lower and more repug- 
nant form of anarchy. In Guatemala, as we have seen, 
Carrera had raised himself to supreme power ; in San Sal- 
vador, Malespin was the irresponsible head of affairs ; a man 
by the name of Ferrara held a similar position, under the 
denomination of President in Honduras ; another, named Fon- 
seca, styled himself Grand Marshal in Nicaragua; and still 
another, Alfaro, with the title of Provisional Chief, ruled in 
Costa Rica. 

While the country was distracted by these struggles, and 
powerless to resist any act of encroachment, however flagrant; 
when the last prop of Nationality had fallen; the English 
agents at Belize thought the opportunity favorable for 
the execution of their long cherished designs on the Mosquito 

Accordingly in 1841, Col. Macdonald, the superintendant, 
left that establishment in a British vessel of war, and coasted 
along the coveted territory, — dispensing presents to the In- 
dians, and pulling down the Central American flag wherever 
it was found flying. He visited San Juan, seized the Nica- 
raguan commander of the port. Col. Quijano, carried him on 
board his vessel, committed various personal indignities upon 
him, and then, after procuring his signature to certain docu- 
ments, put him on shore on a distant coast. He also visited 
Roatan, and notwithstanding the disavowal of 1830, again 
seized it, pulled down the flag of Honduras, and having, in 
the significant language of British diplomacy in Central 

VOL II. 57 


America, " properly instructed," the inhabitants, returned to 
Belize. This act was never disavowed; on the contrary, 
when the government of Honduras pressed the restitution of 
the island upon the English Cabinet, the matter was cut 
short by a letter from Mr. Chatfield, saying that the act of 
Macdonald was performed under the orders of the British 
Govornraent. The felony thus initiated, was consummated 
on the 10th of August last, 1851, when Boatan, Bonaca, 
Utila, and the other islands on the northern coast of Hon- 
duras, were formerly declared annexed to the superintend- 
ancy of Belize, under the denomination of the "Bay 


The results of British aggressions have been summed up, 

by a British author, in the following terms: "To sum up our 
acquisitions in Central America, we have, at the present 
time, exclusive of such smaller items as Roatan and Tigre 
Lslands, a total of 66,600 square miles, or 38,784,000 acres,^ 
over which we exercise full control, being nearly a third of 
Central America^ and equal to two thirds of the area of Oreat 

The details of the contests within and between the several 
States, have no general interest. Those contests were sel- 
dom for the vindication of principles ; they originated chiefly 
in the misdirected ambitions, the bad passions, and the jeal- 
ousy of the men who had the general direction of affairs, 
and who were rarely raised to power on the score of merit 
After a protracted controversy \vith Honduras and San Sal- 
vador, Nicaragua, having sided with the " Coquimbos," was 
invaded by the united forces of these States, under the com- 

' Crow's Central America, p. 220. Mr. Crow is mistaken in respect to 
Tigre Island. It was evacuated by the English within two months after 
its seizure. For a complete history of what is called the " Musquito 
Question," and of English interference in the domestic affairs of the Cen- 
tral American States, see "American Whig Review" for February, March, 
and November, 1850, and March, 1851. 


mand of Malespin, in 1844. Leon was the first town which 
oflFered any effectual resistance, and in the siege which fol- 
lowed, it suffered all the terrors of Central American warfare. 
It was defended, by an inferior force, with a desperation un- 
surpassed in history, but was finally carried^ after a pro- 
tracted siege, over the corpses of its garrison. After this 
event, Nicaragua remained in quiet, with the exception 
of a local insurrection, headed by a man named Chelon, 
which was promptly suppressed, until the seizure of San 
Juan by the English, in January, 1848, and the insurrec- 
tion of Samoza, in 1849. Within the present year, 1851, 
further disturbances have taken place, of the precise nature 
of which we are yet uninformed. What will be the final 
result, the future alone can determine. 

As before stated, an attempt was made, in 1842, to recon- 
struct the confederation, which failed. Another attempt was 
made in 1847. A convention was called of all the States, to 
meet at Nacaome, in Honduras. But representatives ap- 
peared only from Nicaragua, Honduras, and San Salvador. 
These, nevertheless, proceeded to agree upon certain bases, 
which were afterwards known as the " Pact of Nacaome." 
This Pact was rather an act of dose alliance than of confed- 
eration, and was neither acceptable to the Centralists nor 
Federalists. It does not appear to have met the concur- 
rence of any of the States, and consequently never went into 

When Mr. Hise was commissioned as Charg^ d* Affaires of 
the United States to Guatemala, in 1848, he was instructed, 
** whilst it is the intention of the United States to maintain 
its established policy of non-intervention in the concerns of 
foreign nations," that nevertheless, it would be his duty, by 
his "counsel and advice, should suitable occasion offer, to 
promote the reunion of the States which formed the Confed- 
eration of Central America." These instructions were made 
part of those of his successor, who, within one month after 


his arrival in Nicaragua, — on the 1st of August, 1849, — took 
occasion to apprise the respective governments of the desires 
of the United States in this respect. The result was the 
appointment of commissioners on the parts respectively of 
Honduras, San Salvador and Nicaragua, who met in Leon in 
the month of November following, and agreed upon a union 
under the title of the " National Representation of Central 
America." The provisions of the Pact were few and simple, 
and by its terms both Costa Rica and Guatemala were in- 
vited to enter into the new union. 

This Pact was unanimomly ratified by the three States 
above named, and went into effect on the 9th of January, 
1851, when the National Representatives met in the city of 
Chinandega, in Nicaragua !^ Don Jose Barrundia, an emin- 
ent Liberalist of San Salvador, was elected President. 

From the House of the Government, the President and 
Representatives, accompanied by the officers of State, and 
the trooj)s of the line of Nicaragua, proceeded to the Cathe- 
dral, and joined in the Te Deum in commemoration of this 
auspicious event. Appropriate demonstrations of joy were 
made in the various States. In recording it, the official Ga- 
zette of Nicaragua, exclaims as follows : — " After ten years 
of tempest and devastation, the rainbow of hope again tjpans 
the horizon of Central America — welcome, ioken of peace 
and prosperity. God grant that, with the experiences of 
the past to guide us, our future career may be marked by 
harmony and by wisdom, and conform to the high example 
which is afforded to us, by the Great Republic of North 

' Tl»e American Government seems to have been utterly ignorant of 
this fact, as late as June of this year, when it commissioned a Charge 
d* Affaires to Nicaragua, a Siate of the new Confederation! Of course the 
government of Nicaragua could not receive this officer, who, at latest ao- 
counts, was living in Leon, in the capacity of a private citizen. 


Harvard College Wldener Library 
Cambridge, MA021 38 (61 7} 495-241 3